Although there are many great names on the roll call of Ballon d’Or winners, there are equally some who are notable for their absence.
Ranking some of the best players that have never won the Balon d’Or
Pelé, for example, has claims to be regarded as the greatest player who ever lived, but he was not eligible for consideration because he never played in Europe. France Football the outlet behind the award, expanded the criteria to include non-European players in 1995.
That is the same reason why Diego Maradona does not feature on the list. By the time he was eligible for inclusion, he was winding down his career in Argentina, and his great days with his country’s national team and with Napoli, were behind him.
Thierry Henry was part of the Arsenal Invincibles team that went through an entire Premier League season and went on to enjoy considerable success with Barcelona as well as the French national team. But he had to settle for a second and third placed finish when it came to the prestigious trophy.
Ferenc Puskás was part of the great Real Madrid side that dominated the European Cup in its early years, winning it five times in succession. Yet whilst team-mates Raymond kopa and Alfredo Di Stéfano (twice) were recognised, he was overlooked, though he did claim second in 1960.
Paolo Maldini is arguably one of the best defenders ever, helping AC Milan win seven league titles and five European Cups. However, he appears to have been a victim of the award’s bias against defenders – Fabio Cannavaro (in the eyes of many a far inferior player) is the only one to have ever won it – and he missed out.
Xavi and Andrés Iniesta
Xavi and Andrés Iniesta were the heartbeat of the Barcelona and Spain teams that dominated European and World Football for the best part of a decade with the style of quick short passing football that became known as Tika Taka. Neither though, ever, got the top prize, perhaps because they were unfortunate enough to play in the same team as Lionel Messi.
Only one goalkeeper has ever won the Ballon d’Or and that was Lev Yashin back in 1963. That meant that Gianluigi Buffon is missing that from a CV that is otherwise glittering – ten Serie A titles with Juventus, and 176 caps and a World Cup winners’ medal with Italy.
Most people would agree that Polish striker Robert Lewandowski was the best player in the world in 2020 as he continued to set scoring records with Bayern Munich. He was named FIFA Player of the Year, but was robbed of the Ballon d’Or because it was cancelled that year because of the Covid pandemic.
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