The Ballon d’Or is a prestigious individual award, given to the best football player of each year. Since its introduction in 1956, the award has been won by 36 different players. Let’s take a look at how the last 20 winners of the award compare.
Weah remains the only player from Africa to win the Ballon d’Or, and was also the first non-European to win the award. In 1995 he helped PSG to a domestic cup double as he picked up the Ballon d’Or.
The Frenchman won the award in 1991 after leading Marseille to the Ligue 1 title that year, and was also the joint top scorer in the UEFA Champions League as his side lost in the final to Red Star Belgrade on penalties.
The Italian won the Ballon d’Or in 1993 as he captained and inspired Juventus to victory in the UEFA Cup Final, scoring twice and providing one assist in the two-legged final against Borussia Dortmund. He scored nine goals and provided six assists across their European campaign.
A year that saw him make one of football’s most controversial transfers of all time, Luis Figo won the Ballon d’Or in 2000 as he moved from Barcelona to Real Madrid. The Portuguese international became one of the most high-profile players that year and also had an impressive tournament at Euro 2000.
The Brazilian had a wand of a left foot, and his performances in 1999 helped win Barcelona another La Liga title as he scored 24 goals in the league. Rivaldo was instrumental to Barcelona’s success in the late 90’s.
In 2003, Nedved was awarded the Ballon d’Or as Juventus won the Serie A title that year. He was an integral part of their success that season, but his yellow card in the Champions League semi-final meant he missed the final that his team went on to lose against Italian rivals, AC Milan.
The clinical Ukrainian won the Ballon d’Or in 2004 as he was the standout player in an AC Milan side that won the Serie A title. He became the 3rd Ukrainian to win the award, after Oleg Blokhin and Igor Belanov.
One of the few defenders to ever win the award, the German won the Ballon d’Or in 1996 following his success with Borussia Dortmund and Germany that year. He won Euro 96 and the German Bundesliga.
Alongside Kevin Keegan and Sir Booby Charlton, Owen is one of three Englishmen to win the Ballon d’Or, and the last to do so. At just aged 22, he’s the 2nd youngest to ever win the award. In 2001, his goals fired Liverpool to an FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble.
The Bulgarian hitman won the Ballon d’Or in 1994 as his national team surprisingly reached the semi-finals of the World Cup. His goals also secured a fourth consecutive La Liga title for Barcelona.
The Croatian midfielder has aged like a fine wine throughout his career, and had a memorable year in 2018. He led his national side to the World Cup final, which they eventually lost 4-2 to France, and he also completed a hat-trick of Champions League titles with Real Madrid.
A dazzling performance in the Champions League final helped AC Milan defeat Liverpool in 2007 as the Brazilian picked up the Ballon d’Or. Milan also walked the league that year as Kaka was pivotal to their European and domestic dominance.
One of football’s most beloved players ever, the Brazilian was at the peak of his powers in 2005. His dribbling and dazzling prowess in attack helped Barcelona win the league title and Ronaldinho was the best player on the team and in the world.
The current holder of the Ballon d’Or, Benzema went on a historic run in 2022 as he inspired Real Madrid to win a string a Champions League ties after falling behind as they went on to win their 14th Champions League title against the odds. Madrid also won La Liga and the Spanish Super Cup.
An incredible campaign for the Italian saw him win the Ballon d’Or in 2006. Cannavaro captained Italy to World Cup victory against France in a match that will remain long in the memory. The defender also captained Juventus to another Serie A title, but it was later stripped as the club was embroiled in scandal.
The 3-time winner is one of only ten players to win multiple Ballon d’Or awards. The Dutchman was one of the most prolific goalscorers across the 80’s and 90’s. While winning his three Ballon d’Or awards at Milan (1988, 1989 and 1992), he also collected four Serie A titles and three Champions League winners medals.
‘Zizou’ won the Ballon d’Or in 1998 as the French midfielder put in a man-of-the-match performance and scored twice in the World Cup final to see off Brazil. In that year, Juventus also defended their Serie A title and got to the final of the Champions League, narrowly losing to Real Madrid. Zidane is widely considered one of the most complete midfielders of all time.
Without a doubt, one of the best players of all time. The Brazilian’s career was sadly hampered by injuries, but he was still able to win the Ballon d’Or on two occasions in 1997 and 2002. Ronaldo is still the youngest to ever win the award, aged 21. After Bursting onto the European scene at PSV, Ronaldo was unstoppable as he terrorised defenders during spells at Barcelona, Inter, Real Madrid and AC Milan.
Ronaldo has five Ballon d’Or trophies, the second most of any player. He also has more nominations than any player ever, a testament to his longevity at the top of the game. He topped a Champions League and Premier League double at Manchester United with his first Ballon d’Or in 2008 and then went on to win four more at Real Madrid as he dominated Europe, winning four more Champions League finals.
The Argentinian magician unsurprisingly tops this list, having won the award more times than any other player in history. Messi has won the Ballon d’Or seven times, including four successive victories between 2009 and 2012. Messi helped Barcelona dominate Spain and Europe, winning ten La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues. In 2012 he scored an unfathomable 91 goals across the calendar year. Having won the World Cup in Qatar, he could be on course to collect the award for a staggering 8th time.