Top 10: Best players to never win a Ballon d'Or

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Football News

The Ballon d’Or in its current guise is the most prestigious award a player can receive in world football, and celebrates his exploits in the year it was given.

Originally between the years 1956 - the year of its inception - and 1995 it was only awarded to European players playing in Europe and was commonly known as the European Footballer of the Year award.

Due to this some of the greatest players ever such as Pele and Diego Maradona were unable to compete for the award. However, between 1995 and 2009 the Ballon d’Or expanded to include all players playing in Europe, before merging with the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2009.

Below is a list of the 10 best players (who were eligible for the award) that did not win the Ballon d’Or:

10. Gheorghe Hagi

In at number 10 is the legendary Romanian midfielder widely recognised as one of the greatest attacking midfielders of the 20th Century and Romania’s greatest footballer.

Hagi had spells at Real Madrid and Barcelona, but it was his exploits at Galatasaray that made him a legend. In Turkey he is still revered. In the late 90s the Galatasaray side led by Hagi and managed by Fatih Terim won four consecutive league titles and Hagi at the age of 35 helped Gala clinch the UEFA Cup in 2001 with a victory over Arsenal.

This was followed by a European Super Cup victory over Hagi’s former club Real Madrid. Hagi was an exceptional player; his exploits in Europe for a less fancied club like Galatasaray highlights his credentials.

Hagi, however, was always restricted from performing in latter stages on major international tournaments because of his nationality. Still, he played in three World Cups and scored a remarkable long-range goal at France ’98, which is remembered as one of the finest in the history of the competition.

9. Steven Gerrard

The dynamic captain of Liverpool and England is recognised as one of the finest midfielders of his generation: a born leader who has the ability to single-handedly drag his team across the line.

He ignited Liverpool’s legendary comeback at Istanbul in 2005 en route to Champions League glory and almost won the FA Cup final in 2006 against West Ham with what is sometimes described as the best FA Cup goal ever to make it 3-3 and drag the game into extra time.

He is also the only footballer ever to have scored a goal in an FA Cup final, a League Cup final, a UEFA Cup final and a Champions League final.

Gerrard could have easily won the Ballon d’Or in 2005, when he finished third - or in 2009 when he was described by Zinedine Zidane as the “best footballer in the world”.

However, just like the Premier League trophy the Ballon d’Or is another trophy he is seemingly destined never to claim.

8. Nils Liedholm

The legendary midfield general who spent most of his club career at AC Milan in the 1950s was voted the greatest ever Swedish player by Swedish newspaper Aftonlabet.

Liedholm was part of the legendary Gre-No-Li combination that brought Milan such great success in this period and was also part of the Sweden side who reached the World Cup final - a final which he scored in.

His main attributes were his passing and fitness; according to Milan fans it took Liedholm two years to misplace a pass upon which the fans at the San Siro rewarded him with a five-minute standing ovation.

He was never really in contention for the Ballon d’or due to his feats being overshadowed the great Madrid team in this era, who secured five successive European Cup victories.

7- Kenny Dalglish

During the late 1970s to early 90s Kenny Dalglish was an integral part of Liverpool's success and dominance on a domestic and a European stage.

He spearheaded the side that won European cups in 1978, 1981 and 1984 and was named the greatest British post-war striker by FourFourTwo magazine. He finished runner up for the Ballon d’Or award in 1983 at the height of Liverpool's dominance, but his achievements during his career merited a win.

6. Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry was such a force at Arsenal during his eight-year stay that they have already made a statue of him in bronze outside the Emirates Stadium, and he has not even retired yet.

Henry was among the finest - if not the finest - strikers in his heyday at Arsenal in the mid-2000s, during which time he scored a record 226 goals and won four straight PFA Player of the Year titles (another record).

Unbelievably, he never won the Ballon d’Or which seems incredible give his performances for Arsenal and his success with the national team.

5. Bobby Moore

A true footballing icon, he was “the greatest defender of all time”, according to Franz Beckenbauer and the best Pele had ever played against in his long career.

Bobby Moore was noted for his incredible positioning and timing of tackles; he captained England to World Cup triumph on home soil in 1966 and won a record 108 caps playing in every minute of them.

1966 and 1970 seem to be the most likely years when Bobby Moore could have claimed the Ballon D’or, However defenders are not popular winners of the Ballon D’or in fact there have only been two: Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 and Franz Beckenbauer in 1972 and 1976.

4. Franco Baresi

Voted AC Milan's Player of the Century in 1999, Baresi was without a doubt the finest defender of his era - a loyal servant to both club and country, who would have made a worthy recipient of the Ballon d’Or. He finished second in the award in 1989 behind Marco van Basten.

3. Xavi Hernandez & Andres Iniesta

Iniesta and Xavi are inseparable on the pitch, revolutionising football in their role of the development of tiki-taka football. They are seen as one of the main reasons for the unrivalled success of Barcelona and Spain in the modern era. The fact neither of them has won the Ballon d’Or suggests they may not get the credit they deserve, often overshadowed by the free-scoring Lionel Messi.

2. Paolo Maldini

Few would argue that Paolo Maldini was the greatest left-back of all time. Remarkably he averaged only one tackle every two games, due to his remarkable anticipation and positioning negating the need to tackle.

His honours rank as one of the most successful footballers of all time winning the Champions League/ European Cup on five occasions. He was named the best player in the world by World Soccer magazine but never won the Ballon d’Or.

Maldini’s remarkable consistency at the highest level for 25 years single him out as one of the greatest players never to have won the Ballon d’Or. Remarkably he was even named the best defender in Europe at the UEFA football club awards in 2007, at the age of 39.

1. Ferenc Puskas

The captain of the Mighty Magyars (rated the best team of all time by the ELO rating system) and widely regarded as one of the best players of all time.

Puskas regularly outscored fellow great Alfredo Di Stefano and won four Pichichi trophies in La Liga and a record five consecutive European Cup victories with Real Madrid.

The Ballon d’Or award did not start until 1956 and some might argue that Puskas’ best individual season was in 1954 at the height of Magyar supremacy, helping Hungary defeat England 8-3 at Wembley in “the Game of the Century”.   

Honourable mentions: John Charles, Jimmy Greaves, Romario, Frank Riijkard.


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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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