Many of football’s finest players have won the Ballon d’Or. Messi has won it six times, Ronaldo five, and Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff, and Marco van Basten three.
Franz Beckenbauer, Ronaldo, Alfredo Di Stefano, Kevin Keegan, and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge have won it twice.
Who will take home the Ballon d’Or in 2021? The shortlist, the favorites, the most recent odds, the date, and the hosts
However, there have been many great players who have never won the Ballon d’Or. Football Transfers looks at the 5 best and most deserving Ballon d’Or winners who never won it.
Remember that we excluded non-European players who were not active or at their peak after 1995 because, until this year, only European footballers at European clubs were eligible. This means that Pele and Diego Maradona aren’t on the list.
Number 5: Thierry Henry (France)
Thierry Henry is Arsenal’s all-time greatest player and scorer, leading the club to two Premier League titles and two European finals during a glittering first spell.
He deserved the Ballon d’Or in 2004 after leading Arsenal’s Invincibles to an unbeaten Premier League season and scoring 39 goals in all competitions.
Instead, Andriy Shevchenko of Milan received the award that year.
Number 4: Raul (Spain)
While Raul never quite lived up to expectations for his country, he is a Real Madrid legend after scoring 323 goals and leading the Blancos to three Champions League titles.
Raul was a consistent performer in the Champions League, scoring in two finals. He may have deserved the award after his best-ever scoring season in 2001, but it was given to Michael Owen instead.
Number 3: Ferenc Puskas (Hungary)
Ferenc Puskas was unlucky that the Ballon d’Or was not created until 1956. By that time, the attacker’s heroics with the legendary Hungary Golden Team of the early 1950s had already passed him by.
Nonetheless, his brilliance as a member of the Real Madrid team that won the first five European Cups – including four goals in the 1960 final win over Frankfurt – must have earned him at least one Ballon d’Or.
That year, he was second to Barcelona’s Luis Suarez.
Number 2: Xavi (Spain)
Xavi will be remembered as one of the best central midfielders of all time, along with Andrea Pirlo, as the greatest of his generation.
He was the midfield wizard on Pep Guardiola’s renowned Barcelona team when Spain won successive Euros and a World Cup. Xavi’s lack of unique goals and assists hurt him with voters. But he deserved better than three third-place finishes.
Number 1: Andrés Iniesta (Spain)
The Spain and Barcelona midfield trident of Xavi, Sergio Busquets, and Andres Iniesta is arguably the most dominant midfield trident in football history.
Iniesta was a technically flawless attacking midfielder who produced flashes of brilliance at crucial moments. He scored Spain’s late goal in the 2010 World Cup final against the Netherlands. Iniesta finished second that year, with Lionel Messi taking first place.