England and Blackpool legend Stanley Matthews became the first ever recipient of the Ballon d’Or in the year 1956. The prestigious award has subsequently been won by a host of football superstars from across the globe, including Ronaldo & Messi, and continues to be the benchmark honour in the world of football.
Here, we list down the five players who have laid their hands on the prestigious Ballon d’Or trophy most number of times.
1. Lionel Messi (Argentina) – 5 Ballon d’Or wins
The Argentine maestro is perhaps the greatest ever player to have played the game, a fact that is accurately reflected by his 5 Ballon d’Or wins over the years. Messi earned the first Ballon d’Or nomination of his great career in the year 2007 but had to settle for the third place, with Kaka walking away with the coveted trophy that year.
The Barcelona wizard didn’t have to wait long for his first ‘Golden Ball’ though, as he won the prize in 2009, beating rival Cristiano Ronaldo and club teammate Xavi to it. Messi tightened his stranglehold on the trophy in subsequent years as he was named the best player on the planet in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He also became the first ever player to win the trophy in four consecutive years (2009-12). The fifth such trophy of his career came in the year 2015.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – 5 Ballon d’Or wins
That there is debate around Leo Messi being the greatest player of his generation is solely down to the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese goal-scoring machine has also won the ‘Golden Ball’ for a record 5 times and is level with Messi as the player to have won the prize on most occasions.
Ronaldo won the first Ballon d’Or of his career in the year 2008 and followed it up with four more trophies in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017. He is also the reigning Ballon d’Or holder and is still the driving force behind the Portuguese national team and his club Real Madrid.
3. Michel Platini (France) – 3 Ballon d’Or wins
France and Juventus legend Michel Platini was the ever man to have won the Ballon d’Or for three consecutive years. Such was the level of Platini’s performance for Juventus in Serie A that the playmaker was deemed as the planet’s top footballer for three straight years in 1983, 1984 and 1985.
Platini was a true artist in the centre of the pitch and was a prolific goalscorer for both club and country during his peak years. The French midfield maestro was also ranked sixth in the FIFA Player of the Century vote.
4. Johan Cruyff (Netherlands) – 3 Ballon d’Or wins
The concept of ‘Total Football’, so prevalent and appreciated in the modern-day game, owes its origin to the genius that was Johan Cruyff. The Dutch legend is widely regarded as one of the all-time greats of the game. Cruyff’s game intelligence and tactical nous were second to none and he used these weapons to claim 3 ‘Golden Ball’ titles during the course of his decorated career.
The first of these three wins came in the year 1971 when Cruyff was building his legacy at Dutch giants Ajax. Next up were two back-to-back Ballon d’Or wins in 1973 and 1974, during Cruyff’s time at Barcelona.
5. Marco van Basten (Netherlands) – 3 Ballon d’Or wins
Marco van Basten is another Dutch maestro to have on the ‘Golden Ball’ thrice. Known for his close ball control, attacking intelligence and spectacular strikes and volleys, Van Basten is regarded as one of the greatest ever European forwards. He won the coveted Ballon d’or award in 1988, 1989 and 1992 – with all three of his wins coming during his time at Italian giants AC Milan.
The Ballon d’Or is an annual football award presented by France Football. It has been awarded since 1956, although between 2010 and 2015, an agreement was made with FIFA and the award was temporarily merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year, and known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or, but the partnership was ended in 2016 and the award been reversed back to Ballon d’Or. Conceived by sports writer Gabriel Hanot, the Ballon d’Or award honours the male player deemed to have performed the best over the previous year, based on voting by football journalists. Originally, only European players were in contention for the Ballon d’Or: in 1995 the award was expanded to include all players at European clubs and in 2007 to all players from around the world.