The Ballon d’Or is a football player’s most prestigious individual award.
The Ballon d’Or, first awarded by French Football in 1956, is an annual prize given to the best player for a club and country during the calendar year. Coaches and captains of all national teams and selected journalists choose their top three nominees from a pre-announced shortlist of players. The award is given to the player who has received the most ‘top’ nominations.
Despite the fact that the award has been open to players from all over the world since 2007, only top-five league players have won the Ballon d’Or since 1995.
As is customary, the Ballon d’Or shortlist this year includes a slew of attackers. Italy’s Euro 2020 goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, midfielder Jorginho, and defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci all missed out.
Many top players have been nominated for the Ballon d’Or over the years, but not all have won the prestigious award. On that note, here are the eight players who have received the most Ballon d’Or nominations in history:
Number 8: Zinedine Zidane – 8 (Ballon d’Or winner in 1998)
Zinedine Zidane is widely regarded as one of the greatest midfielders in the game’s history.
During his illustrious playing career, the Frenchman received eight Ballon d’Or nominations. He only had three podium finishes, winning in 1998 and third and second in 1997 and 2000, respectively.
Zidane has two league titles with Juventus and once with Real Madrid (1). With the Merengues, Zidane won the Champions League in 2002, with a blistering volley in the final against Bayer Leverkusen sealing Madrid’s ninth title.
He also had success with France, winning the FIFA World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship the following year.
Number 7: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 11
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the most decorated players in history, particularly since the turn of the century.
He has won league titles in four countries and been named top scorer five times. The Ballon d’Or, on the other hand, is conspicuously absent from his glittering resume. Ibrahimovic has been nominated for the prestigious award 11 times but has never finished on the podium.
Despite this, the 40-year-old remains a standout performer for club and country. The all-time leading scorer in Sweden recently scored his 500th goal in club football.
Ibrahimovic, who is now at AC Milan, shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Number 6: Gianluigi Buffon – 6
Gianluigi Buffon is one of the greatest players in history who has never won the Ballon d’Or.
Buffon, widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in history, is still going strong at the age of 43. He has 11 Ballon d’Or nominations but has only appeared on the podium once, finishing second to compatriot Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.
Buffon finished fourth in one of his most recent Ballon d’Or nominations in 2017, trailing winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
During a 25-year Serie A career, the 2006 FIFA World Cup winner kept 299 clean sheets. Buffon has won 11 league titles, ten of which he has won with Juventus.
Buffon has four clean sheets in 11 games since returning to his boyhood club Parma. Before hanging up his boots, Buffon hopes to represent Italy in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Number 5: Franz Beckenbauer – 12 (Ballon d’Or winner twice)
Franz Beckenbauer is regarded as one of the greatest defenders of all time.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Der Kaiser popularized the sweeper role (libero). He is the first player to win two Ballon d’Or awards, achieving the feat four years after his first in 1976.
Beckenbauer is a Bayern Munich and (West) Germany legend who began his career as a midfielder. He won every major club and country title on offer. With Germany, he won the Euros and two FIFA World Cups. He won four Bundesliga titles and three European Cups with Bayern Munich (now known as the Champions League).
He also had a successful managerial career, guiding West Germany to the FIFA World Cup title in 1990. Beckenbauer also won league titles in two countries, as well as the UEFA Cup.
The German is one of only a few defenders to have won the Ballon d’Or, which is usually awarded to attackers.
Number 4: Johan Cryuff- 12 (Three-time Ballon d’Or winner)
Johan Cryuff is one of the sport’s most illustrious names. Cryuff was a big fan of Rinus Michels’ Total Football Philosophy and had a lot of success on both sides of the field.
Cryuff put Ajax on the map in Europe, winning eight Eredivisie titles and three European Cups. He repeated that success with Barcelona, ending the club’s near-decade-long league title drought.
Cryuff, a legend at both clubs, was the first of only five players to win three Ballon d’Or awards. Later in life, he criticized the selection of Ballon d’Or winners, calling it a “bunch of journalists and people voting for their friends.”
In the early 1990s, Cryuff assembled a “dream team” at Barcelona, winning four consecutive league titles and the European Cup (now known as the Champions League).
Number 3: Paolo Maldini – 13
Paolo Maldini is one of the best players who has never won the Ballon d’Or. He received a whopping 13 nominations but only appeared on the stage twice (1994 and 2003). That is the most nominations ever received by a player without winning the coveted award.
Nonetheless, Maldini is regarded as one of the game’s best defenders. Maldini had a storied club career spanning two and a half decades, but despite tempting offers from other clubs, he only played for one – AC Milan.
The 53-year-old won eight league titles and five European Cups (including two in the Champions League era). A jury of 140 journalists recently named Maldini the best left-back.
Maldini, who is now the technical director of AC Milan, had a stellar career with Italy, reaching the finals of the 1994 FIFA World Cup and the 2000 European Championship. When the Azzurri won their fourth and most recent World Cup in 2006, Maldini announced his retirement from international football.
Number 2: Lionel Messi -15 (six-time Ballon d’Or winner)
Lionel Messi is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the beautiful game.
Messi has scored goals and won titles (both individual and team) aplenty during his illustrious career for club and country. The only player in history to have won six Ballon d’Or awards is the eight-time Pichichi winner.
Messi first won the coveted award in 2009, and three years later, he completed an unprecedented four-peat. Ten years after receiving his first award, the Argentine became the first six-time winner of the Ballon d’Or.
He joined PSG this summer and has had a quiet season thus far. However, Messi may have already done enough to win the award for a record-breaking seventh time.
Number 1: Cristiano Ronaldo – 17 (Five-time Ballon d’Or winner)
The 36-year-old has had a stellar career for both club and country. Ronaldo is the only player in history to have won five Champions League titles, as well as five Ballon d’Or awards.
Now at Manchester United, the 2020-21 Copacannonieri winner has immediately impacted his return to his old club. He has won seven different competitions. Earlier this summer, Ronaldo made history by becoming the European Championship’s all-time leading scorer. He won the Golden Boot award for his five goals and one assist.
Ronaldo was nominated for a record-breaking 17th Ballon d’Or a few weeks ago. Ronaldo, like Messi, has reached the podium 12 times.
On the other hand, Ronaldo is unlikely to win his sixth Ballon d’Or this year due to a lack of major silverware.
Nonetheless, with Ronaldo showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, he will almost certainly add to his Ballon d’Or tally before calling it a day.: