The English Premier League is widely regarded as the most competitive and talented football league in the world. Unfortunately, the league’s quality has yet to have an impact on the country’s total number of Ballon d’Or winners.
The country is desperate to see the rise of a new challenger 20 years after its last Ballon d’Or victory. England requires a player who is not only ruthless but also capable of inspiring a new generation of world-class players. At least, that is what the four Ballon d’Or winners have done.
Here’s how England’s Ballon d’Or winners compare to one another:
Number 4: Michael Owen
In Spain, Michael Owen is remembered as a failed Galactico, a prospect who did not thrive at Real Madrid. But Liverpool fans and England supporters remember him fondly as the striker who flourished at Anfield, winning the Ballon d’Or as a 22-year-old in 2001.
Owen emerged as one of the Premier League’s best center-forwards under Liverpool manager and legend Gerrard Houllier. He was quick off the line, had the stamina to chase down balls, and was never tired of scoring.
As was evident in the 2000-2001 season, it was Owen’s tenacity that gave Liverpool the upper hand.
Liverpool won the FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup after being influenced by Owen’s late FA Cup final brace against Arsenal. Of course, it was not as prestigious as the regular Champions League, league, and domestic cup treble, but it was sufficient for the ultimate prize.
Owen, who scored 24 goals in 46 games for Manchester United in the 2000-01 season, was the last English player to win the Ballon d’Or.
Number 3: Sir Stanley Matthews
Sir Stanley Matthews is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in English football history. He only played for two clubs, Stoke City and Blackpool, where he excelled as a forward.
Matthews was the epitome of a full-fledged forward. He could dribble better than anyone else, score outrageous goals, and was an excellent ball crosser.
The great Franz Beckenbauer regarded Matthews as one of the best in the business, claiming that he was nearly impossible to stop.
Matthews is the only footballer in history to have been knighted while still playing. He is also the oldest player in history (50 years) to play in England’s top division and represent the country (42.3 years).
Matthews was also the first player to win the Ballon d’Or, which he received while playing for Blackpool in 1956.
Number 2: Sir Bobby Charlton
Over the last 65 years, the Ballon d’Or has recognized many fine gentlemen, but few have been as courageous as Sir Bobby Charlton. Charlton, who was promoted to Manchester United’s first team in 1956, was always destined for greatness. However, his impact following the Munich air disaster in 1958 was unexpected.
Charlton, who was not Manchester United’s captain then, led the team with poise and valor. His skill in front of goal was only surpassed by his leadership abilities, and United were fortunate to have had both.
Charlton played for Manchester United for 17 years, scoring 199 goals as an attacking midfielder and winning three league titles, one FA Cup, and one European Cup. However, his club success was insufficient to earn him the Ballon d’Or. He also had to perform admirably for his country.
Charlton led England with ferocity in the 1966 World Cup, guiding them to their first and only World Cup victory. His most memorable performance came against Portugal in the semi-finals.
Charlton’s match-winning brace eliminated Eusebio’s team from the competition, setting up an all-important final against West Germany. Geoff Hurst ran the show in the final, but Charlton’s contribution was lauded.
Charlton won the Ballon d’Or in 1966 after an incredible World Cup campaign and 18 goals in club football in 1965-66. The victory marked England’s return to the podium a decade after Matthews won the first “Golden Ball.”
Number 1: Kevin Keegan
To call Kevin Keegan an English sensation or legend would be a gross understatement. He was the knight in shining armor of England. He is the only Englishman in history to have won the Ballon d’Or multiple times.
Kevin Keegan first came to prominence while playing for Liverpool. The prolific goal-scorer signed with the Reds in 1971 and was a consistent contributor for the next six seasons. Keegan won three league titles, an FA Cup, two UEFA Cups, and the 1976–77 European Cup during his time at Anfield.
Liverpool’s European Cup victory marked the club’s first successful campaign in the competition. Keegan made the three-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or in 1977 thanks to his exploits with Liverpool. Allan Simonsen of Borussia Monchengladbach eventually defeated him. However, his fortunes changed after joining SV Hamburger in 1977.
Keegan won the Ballon d’Or in 1978 after scoring 12 goals in his debut season in Germany. Keegan increased his tally the following year, scoring 17 goals and leading Hamburger to their first league title in two decades. In 1979, his inspiring performances enabled him to retain the Ballon d’Or.