Created in 1956 by France Football's chief magazine writer, the Ballon d'Or is the most prestigious individual accolade in the world. Players from 18 different countries and 19 different clubs have won the award, with German players and Barcelona players having been the most successful. Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, Marco van Basten and Cristiano Ronaldo have all won the Ballon d'Or three times, while Lionel Messi holds the record with four wins.
From 1956 to 1995, the award was exclusively for European players, but in 1995 it was opened up to any player who played in Europe, and in 2007 it was opened up to any player in the world. In order to keep things sensible, this list is restricted only to those who were actually eligible to win the award. That means no Pele, Maradona or Sindelar on the list, or any other players who would not have been able to win the award during their career.
Given that the Ballon d'Or is awarded for a player's performances and achievements in a calendar year, it does not particularly reward consistency. Having one outstanding year gives you a better chance of winning than having 15 very good ones. Another reason some players miss out is because they played at a time when there was a dominant force in the awards, as we are seeing now with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Here are the top 20 players to never win the Ballon d'Or:
20 20. Zbigniew Boniek
Perhaps the least high-profile name on this list, Zbigniew Boniek spent much of his career unrecognised by the wider footballing community, as he played his domestic football in his native Poland, for Widzew Lodz. In 1982, Boniek inspired Poland to a third place finish at the World Cup, in which he made the Team of the Tournament, and was snapped up by Juventus that summer. He spent his next six years in Serie A and retired early, aged 32, with eight trophies to his name.
19 19. Frank Rijkaard
18 18. Kenny Dalglish
17 17. Dino Zoff
16 16. Xavi Hernandez
There has arguably been no more difficult a time to win a Ballon d'Or than in recent years, with the Ronaldo/Messi dominance and midfield maestro Xavi is prime evidence of that. The former Barcelona man spent 17 years encapsulating everything that made Barcelona great during his era. A graduate of La Masia academy, Xavi made Barca's pass and move style of play work beautifully.
15 15. Uwe Seeler
One of the game's great goal scorers and one of the greatest German footballers of all time, Uwe Seeler spent his entire professional career with Hamburg, where he scored 404 goals in 476 games. He won both the league title and DFB-Pokal with Hamburg. With the West German national team, Seeler never won a trophy. He scored 43 goals in 72 caps for his country but fell just short on two occasions. He reached the final in 1966 and the semi-final in 1970.
14 14. Paul Scholes
Another player of the modern era and there were a few Manchester United players who could have made this list, certainly Ryan Giggs can consider himself unlucky not to feature. It's Scholes who makes the grade though, underrated for much of his career, only in the last few years has the genius of Scholes genuinely been recognised by the wider footballing community.
13 13. Franco Baresi
12 12. Gianluigi Buffon
11 11. Giacinto Facchetti
10 10. Johan Neeskens
Whilst the Netherlands talisman during their era of 'Total Football' Johan Cruyff won the Ballon d'Or three times, other pivotal players such as Johan Neeskens and Ruud Krol missed out, and it is the former who makes this list. Twinning an incredible engine with graceful technique, Neeskens was a world class midfielder who was described as being "worth two men in midfield", by teammate Sjaak Swart.
9 9. Gordon Banks
The third and final goalkeeper to make this list, Gordon Banks is second only to Lev Yashin in terms of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and since the 'Black Spider' won the Ballon d'Or, Banks is the highest regarded shot stopper not to have done so. He played the majority of his club football with Leicester and Stoke, meaning his domestic titles were limited to two League Cups, but with England came his greatest accomplishment, namely the World Cup in 1966.
8 8. Thierry Henry
Recently named our choice as the greatest player of the Premier League era, Thierry Henry was simply unstoppable throughout much of his career. Signed by Arsene Wenger having been played on the left wing for Juventus, he was transformed into a world class striker at Highbury. He had pace, technique, invention and ruthlessness in front of goal. Henry scored a total of 360 goals in 792 games over his career, he is both the Arsenal and French national team top scorer.
7 7. Andrea Pirlo
6 6. Michael Laudrup
5 5. Paolo Maldini
One of the greatest defenders to have ever lived, Paolo Maldini had a remarkable career, in both his success, performances and longevity. Maldini's career, which was spent solely at AC Milan, spanned 24 years, and saw him play 902 games, in which time he won 26 trophies. His greatest achievement must surely be his five European Cup/Champions League wins, the first and last of which were 18 years apart. Only Francisco Gento has won more, and Maldini captained AC Milan for two of those wins.
4 4. Andres Iniesta
A victim of the Ronaldo/Messi dominance we spoke of earlier, in almost any other era Andres Iniesta would have won the Ballon d'Or, and probably have recorded multiple wins. Equally capable of playing as an attacking midfielder, out wide or even in a deeper role where he started out in La Masia, Iniesta is a graceful player with tremendous skill and control, capable of creating and scoring goals.
3 3. Bobby Moore
2 2. John Charles
1 1. Ferenc Puskas
It is quite remarkable to think that Ferenc Puskas never won the Ballon d'Or. Key to both the legendary Real Madrid and Hungary teams of the 1950s, Puskas is comfortably one of the greatest players of all time, FIFA have even honored him by creating the 'FIFA Puskas Award', awarded annually to the scorer of the best goal in the world that calendar year. He had intelligence, technique and a wand of a left foot, Puskas wasn't the most athletic, nor did he have a strong weak foot or aerial ability.
Unerringly clinical, Puskas scored 616 goals in 620 games at club level and 84 goals in 85 games for Hungary. He won a total of 18 trophies for club and country, including 10 league titles, three European Cups and one Olympic Gold. Despite being named European Player of the Century by L'Equipe magazine, Puskas never won the Ballon d'or, coming closest in 1960, when he lost out to Barcelona's Luis Suarez.
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