Alan Shearer and Ian Wright have ranked the top 10 Ballon d’Or winners of the Premier League era.
Only two Premier League players have actually won the Ballon d’Or since 1992 – and they were Michael Owen in 2001 (Liverpool) and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2008 (Manchester United).
Ronaldo (five) and Lionel Messi (six) have won the prestigious individual accolade 11 times between them – but where do the rank in the eyes of the Match of the Day pundits?
There have been 18 different winners, but Shearer and Wright were only asked to select the top 10.
Here’s who they went for – and what they said – via the Match of the Day Top 10 podcast.
Ian Wright’s top 10
10. Roberto Baggio
“Toto Schillaci got the goals in 1990 but at that tournament, along with Paul Gascoigne, Baggio was outstanding. He dealt with the pressure of playing in his own country and being their creative player.”
9. Luis Figo
“He was really slight but I thought he was magnificent in the 2002 World Cup final and scored some unbelievable goals at Barca – like that overhead kick against Valencia.”
“That game against Manchester United (first leg) was almost the perfect performance. He scored twice and his overall play was exemplary.”
6. Marco van Basten
5. Zinedine Zidane
“When people say poetry in motion, you watch Zidane and you get it.”
“I remember that game at the Bernabeu, everything he did worked, and they gave him a standing ovation. He is the kind of player that makes the game beautiful.”
2. Lionel Messi
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
“He’s done it in different leagues and continually pushes himself. His work-rate, his total drive for perfection, to get where he is, I think he pips it as the top man. Even at 35, there’s no resting on his laurels. He’s an unbelievable role model.”
Alan Shearer’s top 10
10. Roberto Baggio
“He could play anywhere across the front. He had quick feet and was great travelling with the ball.”
8. Luis Figo
“We were comfortable against Portugal at Euro 2000. Then he stepped on the gas and they won 3-2. He went past players like it was easy, effortless. And he had the balls to go from Barca to Real.”
“He was so quick, elegant and smooth. He had great vision and scored some unbelievable goals.”
“He had that step-over, where he could go both ways. The whip and bend he put on free-kicks, his balance, ball control and the no-look pass.”
5. Marco van Basten
“He was a complete centre forward. There wasn’t anything he wasn’t brilliant at. And let’s talk about that volley – the connection, the technique – it was sensational!”
4. Zinedine Zidane
“He was the best player I ever played against. His balance stood out to me, and his ability to control the ball with either foot. The way he went past people and caressed or ‘loved’ the ball, was just incredible.”
“Look at the clubs he’s played for, and his goalscoring record at PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona. When Bobby Robson came to Newcastle he said he enquired about me going to Barcelona but Blackburn said I wasn’t for sale so they signed Ronaldo instead. I think they got a good deal!”
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
“Ronaldo’s made himself as good as he is. He’s had to work hard, it’s probably been more natural for Messi in terms of skill, but they’re both staggering.”
1. Lionel Messi
“The standard that these two have set, they’ve taken goalscoring to a different level. Look at how many appearances and goals they’ve had, it’s bonkers.
“We’re so lucky to live in this era where we’re seeing the football these two produce. To get to the top is one thing, but to stay there and have that hunger to keep on performing – I can’t emphasise enough the dedication they must have to keep doing it year in, year out.”
But the winner is…
As there was a split opinion between who came first, Gary Lineker had the deciding vote – and no prized for which Ballon d’Or winner he went for…
“For reasons of the joy he gives football, the things he does, the beauty of his football – it has to be, for me, Lionel Messi.
“Since I started watching football rather than playing it, Messi has been the best.
“I never thought anyone would get close to [Diego] Maradona – but he certainly did.”
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