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:
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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.
He is widely regarded as the greatest Polish player of all time, and even the goal scoring feats of Robert Lewandowski are yet to dethrone him of that title. Boniek came third in the 1982 Ballon d'Or.
19 Frank Rijkaard
Frank Rijkaard was a Ballon d'Or finalist on two occasions, but finished third both times, losing out to compatriot Marco van Basten in consecutive years. Rijkaard was one of the greatest defensive midfielders in the history of the game, and without doubt the outstanding player of his era in that position. A complete player, Rijkaard experienced great success, winning 23 trophies over his career, including seven league titles, the Champions League three times, and the European Championships with the Netherlands.
18 Kenny Dalglish
Widely regarded as the greatest Liverpool player of all-time, Kenny Dalglish narrowly beat Steven Gerrard to the title in a 2006 supporters poll entitled 'Players Who Shook The Kop'. Dalglish played for only two clubs during his career, Celtic and Liverpool, and scored 336 goals in 822 games in total. He is Scotland's most capped player of all-time, with 102 appearances, and their joint top scorer with 30 goals. Dalglish came second in the 1983 Ballon d'Or, but Michel Platini ultimately won the accolade comfortably.
17 Dino Zoff
Lev Yashin is the only goalkeeper to have won the Ballon d'Or, so naturally some incredible shot stoppers have missed out, and Dino Zoff is one of them. An outstanding all-round goalkeeper, Zoff experienced great success with both club and country. He won six Serie A titles with Juventus and won both the European Championship and World Cup with Italy. In 1982, Zoff became the oldest World Cup winner in history, at the age of 40, and also won Goalkeeper of the Tournament. He came closest to wining the Ballon d'Or in 1973, when he finished second only to Johan Cruyff.
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.
He pulled the strings in midfield for almost two decades, and had incredible success. Xavi won a total of 31 trophies over his career, including eight La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, two European Championships and one World Cup. He finished third in the Ballon d'Or voting three years in a row; 2009, 2010 and 2011.
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.
Seeler was named German Footballer of the Year four times, and came third in the 1960 Ballon d'Or, behind Luis Suarez Miramontes and Ferenc Puskas.
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.
He played 718 games for Manchester United, scoring 155 goals and winning 25 trophies, including 11 Premier League titles. Xavi described him as the best central midfielder of the last 20 years, while Thierry Henry called him the greatest player in Premier League history.
13 Franco Baresi
An AC Milan and Italy legend, Franco Baresi is one of the titans of the game. Powerful yet elegant, Baresi was one of the greatest and most consistent defenders the game has ever seen. He spent his entire 20 year career at AC Milan, where he played 719 games, and was at the heart of one of the greatest defensive units in footballing history. Baresi won six Serie A titles and three European Cups/Champions Leagues with AC Milan, among other trophies, and also won the World Cup with Italy in 1982. He came second in the 1989 Ballon d'Or to Marco van Basten.
12 Gianluigi Buffon
Like Franco Baresi, Gianluigi Buffon is another legend of Italian football. After 6 six years at Parma, where he won three trophies and became Italy's number 1, Buffon joined Juventus, becoming the most expensive goalkeeper in history. He is currently in his 15th season at Juventus, where he has experienced great success. Still going strong, Buffon has - to date - played 780 games, won 19 trophies for club and country and come second in the 2006 Ballon d'Or. Buffon only missed out in the 2006 Ballon d'Or to compatriot and fellow World Cup winner that year, Fabio Cannavaro.
11 Giacinto Facchetti
Widely regarded as one of the greatest full-backs of all-time, Giacinto Facchetti was one of the first truly attacking full-backs, with probably only Nilton Santos playing that way with that effect before him. Facchetti spent his entire career at Inter Milan, a crucial member of the 1960s team known as 'Grande Inter'. He played 629 games for the club, winning nine trophies, including four Serie A titles. Facehetti also had great success at international level, winning 94 caps for Italy, winning Euro '68 and being a finalist in the 1970 World Cup to 'that' Brazil team.
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.
He played most of his football for Ajax, Barcelona and the New York Cosmos, winning 12 trophies in Holland and Spain, including three European Cups. A two-time losing World Cup finalist with the Netherlands, Neeskens was arguably the outstanding player at the 1974 World Cup.
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.
A six-time FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year winner, Banks made the 1966 All-Star team, and his save of Pele's header in 1970 is described by some as the finest save of all time.
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.
Henry won 23 trophies in total, most notably the Premier League, La Liga, the Champions League, European Championships and the World Cup. Twice a finalist, he came second to Pavel Nedved in the 2003 Ballon d'Or and third to Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon in the 2006 Ballon d'Or.
7 Andrea Pirlo
Quite simply one of the finest deep-lying playmakers the game has ever seen, Andrea Pirlo is one of the greatest and most influential footballers of his generation. The majority of Pirlo's club football has come at AC Milan and Juventus, and to date, he has won 116 caps for Italy. With 17 trophies to his name Pirlo has had an outstanding career, winning six Serie A titles, two Champions Leagues and one World Cup. He has never made the top three of Ballon d'Or voting, with his highest finishes being 9th in 2006, 5th in 2007 and 7th in 2012.
6 Michael Laudrup
"Pelé was the best in the 60s, Cruyff in the 70s, Maradona in the 80s and Laudrup in the 90s," or so said Franz Beckenbauer at least, if the Kaiser was right then the best player of the 90s somehow managed to avoid winning the Ballon d'Or. An incredibly gifted attacking midfielder, Laudrup was quick, intelligent and had outstanding technique. Raul described him as the greatest player of all time, while Romario put him behind only himself, Pele, Maradona and Zidane. Laudrup won 15 trophies, including Serie A, La Liga and the Champions League, but the closest he came to winning the Ballon d'Or was in 1995, when he finished fourth.
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.
The complete defender, Maldini's understanding and reading of the game was second to none. Despite being right-footed, Maldini was capable of playing anywhere in defense, and spent the majority of his career playing as a left-back. Not only was he an excellent defender, but the Italian also had fine athletic abilities and a sumptuous cross in the locker. Maldini twice came third in Ballon d'Or voting, in 1994 and 2003.
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.
He has won 28 trophies over his career to date, aged 31, most notably seven La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, two European Championships and one World Cup. Iniesta has finished both second and third in the Ballon d'Or but never won the award.
3 Bobby Moore
Bobby Moore is up there with the greatest defenders of all time, with perhaps only Franz Beckenbauer being ahead of him. A member of the World Team of the Twentieth Century and the FIFA World Cup All-Time Team, Pele described Moore as the greatest defender he ever faced. Moore played most of his club football with West Ham and Fulham before a brief stint in the U.S., and won 108 caps for England, captaining them to a World Cup win in 1966. While England teammate Bobby Charlton won the Ballon d'Or in 1966, Moore had to wait until 1970 to make the top three, when he finished second to Gerd Muller.
2 John Charles
A true legend of the game, nicknamed the 'Gentle Giant', John Charles was capable of playing as both a center-half and a center-forward. It was sometimes half-joked that Charles was best suited to start the game, take the lead and then drop into defense to ensure victory. His finest years came with Leeds and Juventus, he was even named Juventus' greatest ever foreign player in 1997, beating the likes of Michel Platini, Michael Laudrup and Zinedine Zidane. Charles came closest in 1959, when he finished third to Alfredo di Stefano and Raymond Kopa.
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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