Unlikely Ballon d'Or nominations

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The Ballon d’Or is the ultimate prize for a footballer. The list of former winners reads like a who's who of the greatest players we have ever seen.

In 2009, the award was amalgamated with the FIFA World Player of the Year to become the FIFA Ballon d'Or, strengthening its position as the primary award of individual footballing greatness.

As Leonardo Di Caprio will tell you, a nomination is still recognition of a very good body of work. Last year alone, the likes of Arjen Robben, Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale were all nominated for the Ballon d'Or, before it was inevitably awarded to either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.


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However, there have also been some outrageous nominees you will scarcely be able to believe were ever considered.

It quickly becomes clear: international tournaments seem to have a big impact on nominations. Many of the footballers featured on this list were nominated directly after an impressive World Cup or European Championship.

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El-Hadji Diouf

The 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan is remembered as a tournament for the underdogs and no team represented that theme more than Senegal.

Defeating the reigning champions France in the group stage will go down in history as one of the World Cup’s greatest shocks.

Diouf stood out for both his hairstyle and brilliant performances. It genuinely felt as if Liverpool had signed a top class young talent when he joined after the tournament.

However, the forward never seemed to reach the highs of that tournament again. He later played for Bolton, Sunderland and Blackburn to name a few. Diouf is now better remembered more for his misconduct than performances.

Joe Cole

It’s actually easy to forget just what Cole was like at the peak of his powers. Part of West Ham’s golden generation, the flamboyant midfielder showed very high levels of technique for an English player.

Despite having a very respectable career, there is still a feeling he didn’t reach his full potential. In 2006, Cole was a key member of a very good Chelsea side, making 47 appearances and scoring 10 goals while Chelsea went on to lift the Premier League title for the second year in succession.

He also temporarily solved the left midfield problem for England, including a screamer against Sweden at the World Cup in Germany, earning the current Coventry player a nomination for that year's Ballon d'Or.

Andrey Arshavin

Like Cole, fans can be forgiven for forgetting just what Arshavin was capable of. His time at Arsenal was mixed. He started with a bang, scoring four goals against Liverpool in the league showed a glimpse of what he could achieve.

He was the most expensive Arsenal transfer since Jose Antonio Reyes at £16 million, and at the time, felt like the long-awaited quality that the team had been lacking.

However - somewhat inextricably - his performances declined at a steady rate until Arshavin permanently left London in 2012 with little fanfare.

But it was in 2008 where Arshavin was playing arguably the best football of his career. At the European Championships in Austria and Switzerland, the Russian burst onto the international stage. 

His young appearance contrasted with his experience at 27-years-old as he dragged Russia to the semi-finals. His performance against Holland demonstrated his quality.

Unlike most of the others on the list, Arshavin actually received nominations the following year too, earning five votes showed just how highly rated he once was.

Asamoah Gyan

Another beneficiary of a very good international tournament, Gyan lit up the 2010 World Cup in his home continent.

Three goals and a heartbreaking penalty miss against Uruguay in the quarter-finals earned the Ghanian a move to the Premier League with Sunderland. However, the benefits of a good World Cup didn’t end there, with a Ballon d’Or nomination to add.

Gyan now plies his trade in China for Shanghai. As surprising as it is to learn of the striker’s nomination, his demise was equally unexpected given the sparks of talent we saw.

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Andrey Arshavin
El-Hadji Diouf
Joe Cole
Asamoah Gyan
Ballon d'Or

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