The Ballon d’Or, organised by the France Football magazine, is awarded annually to the world’s best footballer who was a cut above the rest and stood out with their performances over the previous year.
The Ballon d’Or award is the brainchild of former France footballer and journalist Gabriel Hanot, who is also credited for conceiving the Ligue 1 championship in France and co-founding the European Cup - now known as the UEFA Champions League - with L’Equipe colleague Jacques Ferran.
Instituted in 1956, the Ballon d’Or award was initially considered as the European Footballer of the Year award as it was only open to European players at European clubs.
However, the rules for eligible winners of the Ballon d’Or award were amended when AC Milan’s George Weah became the first non-European Ballon d’Or winner in 1995. Two years later in 1997, Brazil’s Ronaldo was the first South American winner of the Ballon d’Or award.
Since 2007, the eligibility to win the Ballon d’Or award has been expanded to all players from every continent.
Between 2010 and 2015, the France Football magazine and FIFA formed a partnership where the Ballon d’Or would merge with the FIFA World Player of the Year award to be known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or.
In 2018, the France Football magazine introduced the Ballon d’Or Feminin award for the best woman football player in the world.
Since its introduction in 1956, the Ballon d’Or has been cancelled just once in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Who was the first Ballon d’Or winner?
Stanley Matthews won the first-ever Ballon d’Or award in 1956. Known for his exquisite close contro, great dribbling ability and intelligence on the field, Matthews inspired a famous come-from-behind 4-3 victory for Blackpool in the 1953 FA Cup final against Bolton Wanderers. The fixture later came to be known as the ‘Matthews final’.
He also finished as a runner-up in the English top-flight with Blackpool in the 1955-56 season en-route to becoming the first Ballon d’Or winner.
Who won the first Ballon d'Or as a female football player?
Norway striker Ada Hegerberg is the first winner of the Ballon d’or Feminin award that was introduced in 2018.
Hegerberg, then 23, finished as the leading goal-scorer for Olympique Lyonnais in the 2017-18 Division 1 Féminine (31 goals) as well as in the UEFA Women’s Champions League (15 goals).
Who has won the most Ballon d’Or?
Lionel Messi has won the most Ballon d’Or awards in history, with eight wins, three more than rival Cristiano Ronaldo. The Argentina captain won four successive Ballon d’Or awards between 2009 and 2012 and was the first player to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or.
The Barcelona icon, who currently plays for Inter Miami, won a record eighth Ballon d’Or in 2023 after he helped Argentina claim the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Ballon d’Or winners list
|1957||Alfredo Di Stéfano||Real Madrid||72|
|1958||Raymond Kopa||Real Madrid||71|
|1959||Alfredo Di Stéfano||Real Madrid||80|
|1962||Josef Masopust||Dukla Prague||65|
|1963||Lev Yashin||Dynamo Moscow||73|
|1964||Denis Law||Manchester United||61|
|1966||Bobby Charlton||Manchester United||81|
|1968||George Best||Manchester United||61|
|1970||Gerd Müller||Bayern Munich||77|
|1972||Franz Beckenbauer||Bayern Munich||81|
|1975||Oleg Blokhin||Dynamo Kyiv||122|
|1976||Franz Beckenbauer||Bayern Munich||91|
|1977||Allan Simonsen||Borussia Mönchengladbach||74|
|1978||Kevin Keegan||Hamburger SV||87|
|1979||Kevin Keegan||Hamburger SV||118|
|1980||Karl-Heinz Rummenigge||Bayern Munich||122|
|1981||Karl-Heinz Rummenigge||Bayern Munich||106|
|1986||Igor Belanov||Dynamo Kyiv||84|
|1988||Marco van Basten||Milan||129|
|1989||Marco van Basten||Milan||129|
|1992||Marco van Basten||Milan||98|
|1996||Matthias Sammer||Borussia Dortmund||144|
|2000||Luís Figo||Real Madrid||197|
|2006||Fabio Cannavaro||Real Madrid||173|
|2008||Cristiano Ronaldo||Manchester United||446|
|2013||Cristiano Ronaldo||Real Madrid||27.99%|
|2014||Cristiano Ronaldo||Real Madrid||37.66%|
|2016||Cristiano Ronaldo||Real Madrid||745|
|2017||Cristiano Ronaldo||Real Madrid||946|
|2018||Luka Modrić||Real Madrid||753|
|2021||Lionel Messi||Paris Saint-Germain||613|
|2022||Karim Benzema||Real Madrid||549|
|2023||Lionel Messi||Paris Saint-Germain||-|
Ballon d’Or Feminin winners list
|2019||Megan Rapinoe||OL Reign||230|
Author: William Paul
Featured photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP