Presented by French news magazine France Football, the Ballon d’Or or Golden Ball award is considered the most prestigious individual award in football.
Every year since 1956, a footballer who stands head and shoulder above the others each year gets this award. It’s an accolade that every professional player across the world dreams to own at least once in their career.
We have shortlisted the 10 greatest Ballon d’Or winners on the basis of the number of times they have won the Golden ball.
Note: as of November 2021, Lionel Messi now has 7 Ballon d’ors
10. Ronaldo (2)
Brazil’s Ronaldo Nazario has won the Ballon d’Or award twice in his career. Once in 1997 when he was at Barcelona and the other at Real Madrid in 2002.
The Brazilian legend got his hands on this award for the first time at an early age of 21, becoming the youngest Ballon d’Or winner in football’s history.
He had scored a staggering amount of goals – 47 in 49 matches – during his time with Barcelona. As for the 2002 award, it was Ronaldo’s heroics at the world cup that led Brazil to a historic win. He also won the Golden Boot with eight goals in the tournament.
In his entire professional career, the Fenomeno scored 352 club goals while bagged 62 in 98 games for his country.
Learn more about Ronaldo’s World Cup scoring record here: Top 10 Fifa World Cup Goalscorers (Of All-Time)
9. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (2)
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge won the prestigious Ballon d’Or in 1980 and 1981.
Rummenigge, dubbed as one of the greatest German footballers to grace the game, had quite the career.
In his first few years at Bayern Munich, Rummenigge was still playing second fiddle to Gerd Müller until 1978 when the mantle was passed to him.
Winning the Ballon d’Or on consecutive occasions cemented his name as the best footballer of that time. In 79/80 and 80/81 season, his aura helped Bayern Munich become German Champions, thanks to his 26 and 29 goals respectively. He then won the European Cup in 1980 as well.
His figures at Bayern were nothing less than special. Since the 1979/80 season, until he moved to Inter Milan, Rummenigge was involved in 199 goals in 224 appearances.
8. Alfredo Di Stefano (2)
Spanish legend Alfredo Di Stefano won the prestigious Ballon d’Or in 1957 and 1959.
The Saeta Rubia scored 19 goals in the 1957/58 season to help Real Madrid win La Liga. He was agile, skilful, and prolific forward who had great stamina to make him a perfect finisher for the Spanish juggernauts.
Currently, Di Stefano is the sixth highest goal scorer in La Liga and third highest in Real Madrid’s history, scoring 216 in 282 games. Not to forget that he is Madrid’s leading goal scorer in the history of El Clásico.
In 1989, Di Stefano became the only footballer to be awarded the Super Ballon d’Or as the France Football honoured his career. Stefano had beaten Cruyff and Platini in the final vote.
7. Kevin Keegan (2)
England’s Kevin Keegan won the Ballon d’Or consecutively in 1978 and 1979.
His stellar performances in Germany earned him his first Golden ball. He scored 17 goals to take Hamburg to the Bundesliga title triumph in the 1978/79 season. It was Yugoslavian manager Branko Zebec’s appointment as the team’s manager that brought the best out of Keegan.
He then became the first English footballer to win the award since Bobby Charlton in 1966.
This helped the Englishman bag his second successive Ballon d’Or award, becoming just the fourth player to have won the trophy more than once, by 1979. Juventus then went after him, but Keegan chose England over Italy considering his family’s ease. He signed up with Southampton instead.
6. Franz Beckenbauer (2)
Franz Beckenbauer was the first defender to win the Ballon d’Or and the only defender to win it twice (1972 and 1976).
He bagged the award in 1972 and 1976. His skills as a terrific defender propelled Bayern Munich to win three consecutive European Cups from 1974 to 1976. As for Germany, he was also part of the team that won the 1974 FIFA World Cup and 1972 UEFA European Championship.
Der Kaiser is said to have revolutionized the art of modern defending. He invented the role of libero or sweeper, something we see defenders of the modern era emulating too.
Later in 1990, Beckenbauer won Germany another world cup, but this time as a manager.
5. Marco van Basten (3)
Marco van Basten won the Ballon d’Or on three occasions – in 1988, 1989 and 1992.
The Dutch Forward was a player whose career was cut short due to injury, yet he amazed the footballing world during the years he was active.
He scored many crucial goals in 88‘ and 89‘ season but it was 1992 when he grabbed the Serie A trophy for his side AC Milan after going undefeated and finishing four points ahead of Internazionale. During 1991-92, he scored 29 goals in 38 games across all competitions.
Basten was forced into retirement at 30 by an ankle injury during his mid-20s. Football experts reckon he could have won his side and himself several more honors had he continued playing.
4. Johan Cruyff (3)
Johan Cruyff was the first Dutch footballer to have won three Ballon d’Ors (1971, 1973 and 1974).
He made the most of Ajax’s “total football” style to win the Ballon d’Or in 1971, 1973 and 1974. He scored 25 goals in the 1971/72 season to hand Ajax the Eredivisie with dominating performances throughout the season.
His contribution to Ajax and Spain’s Barcelona cement Cruyff’s place as one of the most influential footballers of his time.
3. Michel Platini (3)
Michel Platini claimed three Ballon d’Or awards in a row from 1983 to 1985 (1983, 1984 and 1985).
Michel Platini is a name that every Juventus fan is familiar with. In the 1983 season, Juventus won the Serie A thanks to Platini’s 20 goals. Platini inspired France to the 1984 European Championship and also help Juventus regain their glory by winning back the Serie A title in 1985.
Apart from securing three Golden ball accolades, Platini grabbed the sixth spot in the FIFA Player of The Century voting.
However, his hype was short-lived as he did not even reach the top-three contenders in any of the non-winning years.
His appointment as the FIFA President was very controversial, but this doesn’t raise an eyebrow on his footballing ability that helped him secure a legendary status.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (5)
Cristiano Ronaldo is a five-time Ballon d’Or winner (2008, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017).
Cristiano Ronaldo has been a force to reckon with since joining Manchester United in 2008 after being scouted by none other than Sir Alex Ferguson. Since his days in Manchester, become one of the greatest players of all-time.
His tenure from 2013 to 2017 was astonishing as he won four Ballon d’Or awards in just five years. The striker is an icon and a huge inspiration for aspiring footballers.
While he was at Premier League in 2007-08, he helped the United get the EPL title and triumph at the Champions League as well.
Since 2013, the year he won his second Golden ball, Cristiano helped Real Madrid grab the Champions League in four out of five years and left the side in 2018 with a goal-scoring record that seems almost unbreakable.
The Portuguese forward netted the most (451) goals in Real Madrid’s history and helped them when four Champions League, three Club World cups and UEFA Super Cups each, two La Liga titles and Copa Del Reys each and Spanish Super Cup as well.
1. Lionel Messi (7)
Lionel Messi has so far won seven Ballon d’Or awards (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019, 2021).
Blaugrana’s Messi was a successor of the legendary Ronaldinho at Barcelona in the late 2000s, but who knew that he will go down in the history books as one of the greatest footballers of all time.
The Argentine forward won his first Golden ball in the 2008-09 season after he was top scorer and a driving force behind the Blaugrana’s continental treble wins.
Messi then won it on three occasions in quick succession. In the 2011-12 season, he scored 73 in 60 games in 2011-12 and again helped his side win the Champion League.
The 2012 Messi was something alien-like. He netted 91 goals that year. After propelling Barcelona to unprecedented glory, he claimed his fifth Ballon d’Or award in 2015 when Barcelona again won the treble.
Since making his debut for Barca in 2004, he has scored a total of 642 goals in 746 appearances, making him the club’s highest scorer of all time.