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).

How is the winner of Ballon d'Or decided?

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

Year Winner Team Points
1956 Stanley Matthews Blackpool 47
1957 Alfredo Di Stéfano Real Madrid 72
1958 Raymond Kopa Real Madrid 71
1959 Alfredo Di Stéfano Real Madrid 80
1960 Luis Suárez Barcelona 54
1961 Omar Sívori Juventus 46
1962 Josef Masopust Dukla Prague 65
1963 Lev Yashin Dynamo Moscow 73
1964 Denis Law Manchester United 61
1965 Eusébio Benfica 67
1966 Bobby Charlton Manchester United 81
1967 Flórián Albert Ferencváros 68
1968 George Best Manchester United 61
1969 Gianni Rivera Milan 83
1970 Gerd Müller Bayern Munich 77
1971 Johan Cruyff Ajax 116
1972 Franz Beckenbauer Bayern Munich 81
1973 Johan Cruyff Barcelona 96
1974 Johan Cruyff Barcelona 116
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
1982 Paolo Rossi Juventus 115
1983 Michel Platini Juventus 110
1984 Michel Platini Juventus 110
1985 Michel Platini Juventus 127
1986 Igor Belanov Dynamo Kyiv 84
1987 Ruud Gullit Milan 106
1988 Marco van Basten Milan 129
1989 Marco van Basten Milan 129
1990 Lothar Matthäus Internazionale 137
1991 Jean-Pierre Papin Marseille 141
1992 Marco van Basten Milan 98
1993 Roberto Baggio Juventus 142
1994 Hristo Stoichkov Barcelona 210
1995 George Weah Milan 144
1996 Matthias Sammer Borussia Dortmund 144
1997 Ronaldo Internazionale 222
1998 Zinedine Zidane Juventus 244
1999 Rivaldo Barcelona 219
2000 Luís Figo Real Madrid 197
2001 Michael Owen Liverpool 176
2002 Ronaldo Real Madrid 169
2003 Pavel Nedvěd Juventus 190
2004 Andriy Shevchenko Milan 175
2005 Ronaldinho Barcelona 225
2006 Fabio Cannavaro Real Madrid 173
2007 Kaká Milan 444
2008 Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United 446
2009 Lionel Messi Barcelona 473
2010 Lionel Messi Barcelona 22.65%
2011 Lionel Messi Barcelona 47.88%
2012 Lionel Messi Barcelona 41.60%
2013 Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid 27.99%
2014 Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid 37.66%
2015 Lionel Messi Barcelona 41.33%
2016 Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid 745
2017 Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid 946
2018 Luka Modrić Real Madrid 753
2019 Lionel Messi Barcelona 686
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

Year Winner Team Points
2018 Ada Hegerberg Lyon 136
2019 Megan Rapinoe OL Reign 230
2021 Alexia Putellas Barcelona 186
2022 Alexia Putellas Barcelona 164
2023 Aitana Bonmatí Barcelona -

Author: William Paul

Featured photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP