You could lift any amount of trophies above your head in a successful footballing career, right up to something as prestigious as the World Cup. But you will always have 10 other men sharing your achievement. And the benched team. And the coach. And the manager. But there are few trophies a player can receive where they stand apart from everyone else.
The Ballon d’Or is an award for personal achievement and is won every year by the played deemed to have given the best performance. It’s open to any player who has been active in European clubs and widely regarded to be one of the most prestigious awards a single player can win.
Held yearly, and with many huge players winning multiple times, you’d think every deserving player would hold the big golden ball aloft at least once in their career. Well, NetBet has gathered together ten players who have been unjustly snubbed over the decades.
If the rules had changed just a year later, Jürgen Klinsmann would have probably never appeared on this list. In 1995, the Ballon d’Or expanded from only considering European footballers to anyone who had played for a team in Europe. Because of this new inclusionary criteria, Milan’s George Weah was up for the award. The only African to ever win the Ballon d’Or pipped the Bayern Munich star to the post at the height of his career.
Two years in a row, Bergkamp was a runner up for the Ballon d’Or which has to sting a little. The late 80s and early 90s Ballon d’Or winners and shortlists were dominated by players representing Italian clubs, so it seemed like a smart move for the striker to move from Ajax to Internationale in 1993. He didn’t quite make it during his second attempt at the award, losing out to Roberto Baggio. Both nominations came before his decade-long stint at Arsenal.
This Hungarian superstar is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. The numbers speak for themselves. Scoring 84 goals in 85 international appearances for Hungary. Scoring 514 goals in 529 matches. He is undoubtedly the best goalscorers in the 20th century. But the Ballon d’Or is not all about goals, as his only nomination for the award ended with coming runner up to midfielder, Luis Suárez.
Chasing the heels of Lionel Messi must be frustrating, but that’s the reality of Andrés Iniesta’s two attempts to win the Ballon d’Or. The 21st century has been all about the Spanish teams with the Ballon d’Or, with Barcelona and Real Madrid providing thirteen winners since the new millennium.
What’s worse than losing out to Messi twice? Losing out thrice! Xavi has the unique disappointment at coming third in line for the Ballon d’Or three years in a row while looking on as Lionel Messi lifted the trophy each time.
If it’s meant to be unlucky to be a bridesmaid three times before getting married, is the same logic applied to Ballon d’Or runner ups? This German midfielder was dubbed The Blond Angel when he helped bring West Germany the World Cup title in 1980. He lost out twice to his German teammate, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in 1980 and 1981, only to be nominated and lose out again in 1985.
This footballing legend was nominated for the Ballon d’Or twice during his time as striker for Arsenal. He made history for the Gunners, becoming their all-time top goal scorer in 2005. He played for France for over a decade, bringing the side plenty of successes in the late 90s and breaking goalscoring records. With all these feathers in his caps and an international following of fans, you think he’d snag at least one Ballon d’Or. Sadly for Henry, that achievement was never realised.
Goalkeepers feature very rarely among Ballon d’Or winners, in fact there’s only one! Lev Yashin took the title took the title in 1963 and is the only goalkeeper to do so. With so much attention on scoring goals as a measure of a player’s worth, it stands to reason that saving goals should count for just as much. That’s why it’s such a shame that Gianluigi Buffon missed out in 2006, given the record-breaking caps and being the first goalkeeper to win the Golden Foot.
This Scottish forward is the pride of his country, mainly because he sent the English running with their tails between their legs. He was a legend for Celtic and Liverpool and inaugurated into both Scottish and English Halls of Fame. This football superstar never had the honour of winning the Ballon d’Or though. I guess the PFA Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year and FourFourTwo’s Number One Post-war British Striker has plenty of other accolades to be proud of.
The 1966 Ballon d’Or understandably went to Bobby Charlton, but another who took England to World Cup glory has been noticeably absent from the Ballon d’Or is the other Bobby. Moore is a household name in the UK, regarded as the one of the best defenders of all time, and a member of the World Team of the 20th Century. Defenders and goalkeepers are so often looked over, but Bobby Moore coming second in the Ballon d’Or in 1970 might just be the greatest snub on this list.