The Ballon d'Or is one of the most prestigious individual awards in the game of football, awarded annually to the best male football player in the world. The award has a storied history dating back to the 1950s and has seen some of the most illustrious names in football history win the trophy. Here is an in-depth look at the history of the Ballon d'Or, the winners from each decade, and the most decorated players in the award's history.
The History of the Ballon d'Or
The Ballon d'Or is a French term that translates to "Golden Ball." The award was established in 1956 by French football magazine France Football and was originally awarded to the best European player of the year. The award was based on a voting system that included sports journalists from across Europe.
The idea behind the Ballon d'Or was to create an award that would recognize the best football player in Europe. At the time, there was no such award, and the idea was met with great enthusiasm by the football community.
The first few years of the award were dominated by players from England and Hungary, with players like Stanley Matthews, Ferenc Puskás, and Raymond Kopa winning the award multiple times.
In 1995, the Ballon d'Or was expanded to include all players playing for a European club. This meant that players from South America and other parts of the world who played for European clubs could now be considered for the award. This led to a more diverse group of winners, with players like George Weah and Ronaldo winning the award in the late 1990s.
In 2007, the award took on a worldwide approach, with journalists from around the world casting their votes. This meant that players from all over the world could now win the award, regardless of where they played their football.
In 2010, the Ballon d'Or merged with FIFA's World Player of the Year award, creating the FIFA Ballon d'Or. This new award was based on a voting system that included national team coaches and captains, as well as journalists from around the world.
The Ballon d'Or would return to its original form as a separate award from the FIFA award in 2016, with only journalists voting for the winner. The current award criteria are based on overall performance, achievements throughout the year, and sportsmanship.
The Origins of the Award
The Ballon d'Or was inspired by the South American Footballer of the Year award, which was established in 1936 by the Argentine sports magazine El Grafico. The award recognized the best South American player of the year, and it was not until 1954 that the European equivalent was established.
The idea for the Ballon d'Or came from Gabriel Hanot, a journalist for France Football. Hanot was inspired by the South American award and felt that Europe needed a similar award to recognize the best football player on the continent.
The inaugural Ballon d'Or was won by Stanley Matthews, a former England international who played for Blackpool at the time. Matthews was widely regarded as one of the best wingers of his generation, and his victory set the tone for the award's future success.
Evolution of the Ballon d'Or Criteria
Since its inception, the Ballon d'Or's criteria has undergone several changes. In the early years, the award was largely based on individual performance, but this changed in the 1960s, where team success became a more significant factor.
During this time, players like Eusébio, who led Portugal to a third-place finish at the 1966 World Cup, were recognized for their performances on the international stage.
The award's criteria shifted again in the 2000s, with the rise of globalization in sports. Players from all around the world began earning recognition, and the award expanded to become a truly global honor.
Today, the Ballon d'Or is awarded to the best player in the world, regardless of their nationality or the league they play in. The award recognizes excellence in football, both on an individual and team level.
The Most Prestigious Individual Football Award
The Ballon d'Or has become one of the most prestigious individual awards in the world of football. It has been won by some of the game's greatest players, including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Michel Platini.
The Ballon d'Or has seen several different winners from around the globe, proving that football is truly a global sport. Some players have won the award multiple times, and we will take a closer look at the most decorated winners below.
Lionel Messi is widely regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time. He has won the Ballon d'Or a record seven times, with his first win coming in 2009. Messi's dominance of the award in the 2010s was unparalleled, with the Argentine winning the award every year from 2009 to 2012, and then again from 2015 to 2019.
Messi's incredible consistency and ability to score goals from all angles and distances have made him a fan favorite and a nightmare for defenders around the world.
Cristiano Ronaldo is another player who has won the Ballon d'Or multiple times. The Portuguese forward has won the award five times, with his first win coming in 2008. Ronaldo's most dominant period came in the 2010s, where he won the award four times.
Ronaldo is known for his incredible work ethic and dedication to the sport. He is a prolific goal scorer and has scored over 700 goals in his career.
Michel Platini is a former French footballer who won the Ballon d'Or three times in a row from 1983 to 1985. Platini was known for his incredible skill on the ball and his ability to score goals from midfield.
Platini was also a successful coach, leading the French national team to victory at the 1984 European Championship.
Johan Cruyff was a Dutch footballer who won the Ballon d'Or three times in the 1970s. Cruyff was known for his incredible technical ability and his ability to read the game.
Cruyff was also a successful coach, leading Barcelona to four consecutive league titles in the early 1990s.
Marco van Basten
Marco van Basten was a Dutch forward who won the Ballon d'Or three times in the late 1980s. Van Basten was known for his incredible finishing ability and his ability to score goals from anywhere on the pitch.
Van Basten's career was cut short by injury, but he is still regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time.
Overall, the Ballon d'Or has recognized some of the greatest football players of all time. The award has evolved over the years to become a truly global honor, and it remains one of the most prestigious individual awards in the world of football.
Ballon d'Or Winners by Decade
1950s: The Early Years
The Ballon d'Or was established in 1956, and the inaugural winner was Stanley Matthews. During the 1950s, the award was largely focused on individuals, and team success was not as significant a factor as it would become in later years.
1960s: The Era of Legends
The 1960s was a decade of great footballing legends. During this time, the Ballon d'Or became more competitive, with team success becoming a more significant factor in the award's criteria.
The winners during this decade included some of the greatest players in football history, including Lev Yashin, Eusebio, and Johan Cruyff.
1970s: The Golden Age of Football
The 1970s was a decade of significant change in the world of football. The sport became more mainstream, and fans around the world were starting to get more access to games through television.
The Ballon d'Or winners during this time were also some of the most memorable, with names like Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, and Michel Platini etching their names in football history.
1980s: The Rise of New Stars
The 1980s was a decade of new stars, with names like Marco van Basten, Michel Platini, and Diego Maradona making their mark on the sport. The Ballon d'Or witnessed some of the most fantastic individual performances in football history during this decade.
1990s: The Modern Era Begins
The 1990s saw the rise of a new generation of footballers, including names like Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo. The Ballon d'Or continued to recognize the best players in the world during this period, with several multiple winners emerging.
2000s: The Age of Globalization
The 2000s saw the world of football become truly global, with players from all over the world making their mark on the sport. Names like Ronaldinho, Kaka, and Lionel Messi dominated the Ballon d'Or during this era.
2010s: The Messi-Ronaldo Domination
The 2010s were dominated by two of the greatest footballers of all time, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Ballon d'Or was largely a two-horse race between the two players during this decade, with both winning the award multiple times.
2020s: The New Generation
The 2020s are set to be an exciting decade in football, with several new players emerging as potential winners of the Ballon d'Or. Names like Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland, and Joao Felix are just a few of the young stars who could make their mark on the sport in the coming years.
Most Decorated Ballon d'Or Winners
Lionel Messi: The Record Breaker
Lionel Messi is widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, and his record-breaking seven Ballon d'Or wins only add to his illustrious career. The Argentine star won his first Ballon d'Or in 2009 and went on to win six more, becoming the most decorated winner in the award's history.
During his career, Messi has amassed an impressive collection of trophies, including ten La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles, and four UEFA Champions League titles.
Cristiano Ronaldo: The Unstoppable Force
Cristiano Ronaldo is another player who has left an indelible mark on football history. The Portuguese star has won five Ballon d'Or awards throughout his career, cementing his status as one of the game's greatest players.
Ronaldo has won numerous trophies throughout his career, including five UEFA Champions League titles, three Premier League titles, and four UEFA European Championship titles with his national team.
Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff, and Marco van Basten: The Three-Time Winners
Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff, and Marco van Basten are three players who have won the Ballon d'Or three times during their careers. These players were instrumental in their respective clubs' success and will always be remembered as some of the best players in football history.
Platini won the award in 1983, 1984, and 1985, while Cruyff won it in 1971, 1973, and 1974. Van Basten won the award in 1988, 1989, and 1992.
The Complete List of Winners
The Ballon d'Or is one of the most prestigious awards in football, awarded to the best male football player in the world. The award has seen some of the most illustrious names in football history win the trophy, including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Michel Platini.
The award's criteria have evolved over the years, with the focus shifting between individual and team performance. However, the Ballon d'Or has never lost its significance as an essential honor in the world of football.
The most decorated Ballon d'Or winners are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with seven and five wins, respectively. These players have cemented their place in football history and will always be remembered as some of the greatest to ever play the game.
The Ballon d'Or will undoubtedly continue to recognize the best football players in the world, and we are excited to see who the future winners of this prestigious award will be.
For more football/soccer content, please visit the Soccer section of our blog.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
Check out healthy energy drinks from Celsius: