Ballon d'Or: The Most Distinguished Players

The Ballon d'Or is a prize that's been given to the best player of every season since 1956. The jury is comprised of sports reporters and the award is given by French soccer magazine, France Football.
Ballon d'Or: The Most Distinguished Players

Last update: 07 October, 2019

Every year brings a new wave of excitement to soccer fans and stars: who’ll be the next player to take home the important award, the Ballon d’Or? In today’s post, read more about this distinguished soccer award.

Brief outline of the Ballon d’Or

Sports journalist, Gabriel Hanot, from the French soccer magazine, France Football, first conceived the idea of the Ballon d’Or. The award has been given to the best player of the season since 1956.

In its beginnings, a group of 16 soccer journalists formed the jury. In order to ensure an unbiased result, each of the journalists represented a different association of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

The first player to win the Ballon d’Or was Englishman Stanley Matthews, with 47 points. His award, however, recognized his trajectory as a player more so than his statistics.

Also in its beginnings, only European soccer players could vote and awards were limited to a single time per player. But Argentinian Alfredo Di Stefano, who played for Real Madrid, yielded an unparalleled talent that would soon change the initial rules.

In 2010, France Football joined efforts with the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) to award Ballon d’Or prizes under both names. In addition, they introduced a new option to vote on feats of National teams in addition to adding soccer players to the jury. However, the joint-effort dissolved five years later due to various disagreements.

Players who’ve won the most Ballon d’Or awards

From the first edition in 1956 to today, a Ballon d’Or award has glorified one player every year. In addition to the main award, players who reach the second and third places also receive recognition. The players that have won the most awards are:

1. Alfredo Di Stefano

After reaching second place in the first edition of the Ballon d’Or, the Spain-naturalized Argentinian soccer star was one of the most important players in Real Madrid. He played on the team during 1953 and 1964, winning the prestigious award twice in 1957 and 1959. In addition, he was the first player to win the award a second time.

ballon dor di stefano
Image: RFEF

Di Stefano is regarded as one of the best soccer players in history. He played for both the Argentinian and Spanish National teams, which was permitted at the time. However, he never played in a World Cup as an Argentinian nor as a Spaniard. He didn’t participate in the Argentina National Team during the World Cup and Spain didn’t classify for the championship during his years on the team.

2. Johan Cruyff: Ballon d’Or

Dutch soccer player Johan Cruyff took home the Ballon d’Or three times: in 1971, 1973 and 1974. He also landed in third place in 1975. Known as one of the best players of all time, he started his professional career in 1964 with Ajax Amsterdam, where he continued for ten seasons.

ballon d'or cruyff

He later played for F.C. Barcelona for a span of five years. He retired in 1984 in Feyenoord, Rotterdam, and debuted as a coach a year later for a team that never officially formed.

To add, he also started playing for the Netherlands National team in 1966. In the 1974 World Cup, they landed second place after losing the final 2:1 to the Germany FR national team. Cruyff passed away due to lung cancer in Barcelona in 2016.

3. Michel Platini

Michel Platini is another three-time winner, though unlike Cruyff, he won his awards consecutively in 1983, 1984 and 1985. Prior to bringing home the awards, he reached third place in 1980.

The retired French soccer star first started playing in 1972 for AS Nancy. He later moved to AS Saint Etienne and would continue to Juventus F.C. He scored 300 goals in his entire career.

ballon dor platini

He also played in three World Cups (1978, 1982 and 1986) and on the best occasion, enjoyed third place with his team. After retiring as a soccer player, he became a coach as well as the president of the French Federation of Football and UEFA (though he was suspended by FIFA’s Ethics Committee for eight years).

4. Marco van Basten: Ballon d’Or

Dutch Marco van Basten was born in 1964 and also won three Ballon d’Or prizes in his lifetime: in 1988, 1989 and 1992. Van Basten is remembered as one of the best strikers in soccer history.

He won three titles, three cups, and one Winner’s Cup while with his first-team (Ajax Amsterdam). He later played for A.C. Milan (from 1987 to 1993), where he won the Europe Cup on two separate occasions.

ballon dor marco van basten

On the Netherlands National team, van Basten played in 58 games and scored 24 goals on top of winning the European Football Championship in 1988. He retired as a player in 1995 and debuted as a coach for Jong Ajax in 2003.

5. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi’s Ballon d’Or track record stands out as he’s won five awards. The Argentinian Barcelona soccer player received the awards in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015. He also landed in second place in 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 as well as in third place in 2007.

ballon dor messi

Many people regard Messi as the greatest soccer player of all-time– even surpassing the likes of Pelé or Maradona. Together with Barcelona, who he’s been playing for since 2004, he’s won 34 titles and has scored more goals than any other player in history.

6. Cristiano Ronaldo: Ballon d’Or

The Portuguese soccer star (feature image) shares a peculiar track record similar to Messi’s. He also won the award five times in 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017. He scored second place in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2018.

In any case, we can’t always agree on the winners for every Ballon d’Or. But there’s no doubt that the nominees are amazing soccer players who all deserve to bring it home. Who’ll be this year’s Ballon d’Or winner?

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Úbeda Colomer, Joan; Molina, P. (2014). El control del balón de oro : crónica crítica sobre la mercantilización del futbol. ResarchGate.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.