The FIFA Ballon D’or award which stands for “Golden Ball” is a trophy given to the footballer who had the best season and performance in the previous calendar year. This award is considered as the highest individual football honour, based on the votes from national team captains, coaches and managers. Sports journalists from around the world also have the chance to vote and choose the best performer of the season.
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The brief history of FIFA Golden Ball
This award during the years has become the most prestigious recognition for the work of one footballer. Since its inauguration, this award was given to the player who had been voted as the one who gave the best performance in the year. This initiative starts back with Gabriel Hanot, the chief magazine writer of France Football. The first voting season for the best soccer player of the year in Europe happened way back in 1956. Stanley Matthews of the club Blackpool was the first player that received this inaugural award from FIFA.
Up until 1995, only the sports journalists could vote for the European players who play at European clubs. In order to get the prestigious award, the players had to play for a European league and come from Europe. As an example, Pele and Maradona weren’t qualified for the award because they never played for a European team, even though they still are one of the greatest names in football history. The modification in 1995 allowed non-European players to qualify for the Ballon D’or if they played for a European club.
George Weah from AC Milan became the first non-European player that received the honour the same year after the rules changed. Another modification happened in 2007 that practically removed all the conditions so that every player had an equal opportunity to receive the award. This modification allowed to over 90 prestigious journalists to choose their top five players for the award.
Three football players have won this award three times each, including Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini and Marco van Basten. Platini is the only footballer to receive this honour three years in a row from 1983 to 1985. After the 1995 modification, Ronaldo became the first player to obtain the honour in 1997.
Ballon d’Or Special Honours
Several football players have received a special honour in terms of this competition. Alfredo Di Stefano won a special FIFA award under the name of Super Ballon d’Or. He received it during the 30th year anniversary of the French magazine in December 1989. The Brazilian football legend Pele also received this award of honour back in 2014. FIFA decided to proceed with this special award, as Pele in his football career won three FIFA cups with Brazil,but has never received an individual award.
The highlights of our generation
Here we highlight some of the greatest football names of our generation that have won this award. So, in no particular order or ranking, here are our favourites:
Lionel Messi – Messi surpassed Ronaldinho as Barcelona’s biggest attacking threat. The first season he was a top scorer (2008-2009) they won La Liga and the Champions League, earning his first Golden Ball. He won it again in the next three years and regained it after a fourth Championships League win in 2015. Messi challenged Ronaldo for a record sixth Golden Ball after winning his 10th La Liga title last year. These two have over 700 career goals each, and they’re not done yet. Critics agree on the fact that these two players have taken the goalscoring to a different level.
Christiano Ronaldo– Real Madrid signed two Golden Ball winners for world-record fees in three days as Christiano joined Kaka at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in 2009. The Portuguese had scored 42 in 49 in season 2007-08, as United won the Premier and Champions League. This led to a sort of a competitive vibe with Lionel Messi, breaking all sorts of goalscoring records along the way. He won the Golden Ball again in 2013 and helped Real Madrid win the Champions League in four out of five years. He joined Juventus in 2018, winning Series A in his first season. As critics and colleagues say, he continually pushed himself in different leagues and teams. His work-rate drive for perfection and professionalism got him to where he is now. Even at 35, he doesn’t stop to work hard, break personal records and represents an outstanding role model.
Zinedine Zidane– after winning Serie A and reaching the Champions League final in his first seasons with Juventus, Zidane helped France win the 1998 World Cup. This midfielder made a world-record move in 2001, scoring an impressive volley in the final as Real Madrid won the Champions League in his first season. He retired after a memorable 2006 World Cup, winning the Golden Ball and being sent off the stadium as France lost in the finals. Critics agree that Zidane is a mix of skills, passion and poetry in motion when it comes to playing football.