The Ballon d’Or (French for ‘Golden Ball’) is an annual individual award which is given to the footballer who is deemed to have performed the best during the previous year.
The accolade is presented by the football magazine France Football and it first appeared in 1956, when it was popularly known as the European Footballer of the Year award due to the fact that it was initially restricted to European players. In 1995, it expanded to include players of any nationality at European clubs before being adapted to include all players from around the world in 2007.
The Ballon d’Or was initially distinct from FIFA’s World Player of the Year award, but the two merged in 2010 to become the FIFA Ballon d’Or. However, that merger lasted just five years and the Ballon d’Or became separate from FIFA again in 2016, with the world governing body subsequently creating the new ‘The Best’ awards series.
Who has won the most Ballon d’Or awards?
Since its formation in 1956, the Ballon d’Or has been won by many different players, but no one has been as successful as Lionel Messi. The Barcelona star has won on five occasions, finishing in the top three a total of 10 times. Behind Messi is his long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo with four awards and the Real Madrid talisman is hoping to pull level with the Argentine in 2017.
After Messi and Ronaldo, just hree players have won the Ballon d’Or three times, with Johan Cruyff shining in the 1970s, while Michel Platini and Marco van Basten dominated the 1980s. Franz Beckenbauer, Ronaldo, Kevin Keegan, Alfredo di Stefano and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge have each been presented with the accolade twice.