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Ballon d’Or – aka The Golden Ball

The Ultimate List of Ballon d’Or Winners

The Ballon d’Or, a prestigious and highly coveted award in football, has been a symbol of excellence since its inception in 1956. Recognizing the best ever male and female players in the world, the Ballon d’Or (aka The Golden Ball) has honored football icons’ incredible talents and achievements throughout history. Join us as we journey through the captivating world of the Ballon d’Or and its legendary Ballon d’Or winners.

Key Takeaways

  • Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the Ballon d’Or awards, setting new standards of excellence in football.
  • The Ballon d’Or is a prestigious award recognizing some of the world’s best male and female players each year.
  • Barcelona and Real Madrid lead with 12 wins each, while Lionel Messi holds seven titles for individual success.

The Reign of Messi and Ronaldo

Ronaldo and Messi banners side by side.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have left an unmatched mark in the history of Ballon d’Or, surpassing countless extraordinary talents. Dominating the Ballon d’Or awards, these football titans have won 12 out of the last 13, establishing a fierce rivalry. Messi holds the record for the most Ballon d’Or awards, with a staggering seven wins.

These football icons have undoubtedly shaped the landscape of the sport, setting new standards of excellence for future generations. With only ten players in history winning multiple Ballon d’Or awards, Messi and Ronaldo’s achievements are a testament to their unrivaled skill and dedication to the game.

The Era of Messi and Ronaldo

The consistent outshining of their peers defines the era of Messi and Ronaldo through exceptional performances on the pitch. Their rivalry began in the late 2000s and continues to this day, capturing the imagination of football fans worldwide. Currently playing for the MLS team Inter-Miami FC after leaving Paris Saint Germain this year, Messi leads the pack with seven Ballon d’Or awards. Ballon d’Or 2023 gave him his seventh. Meanwhile, Ronaldo, recently moving from Manchester United to Saudi Arabian football club, Al-Nassr, has five to his name.

The lasting effects of the Messi-Ronaldo era are undeniable, as their consistent excellence has raised the bar for footballers everywhere. Their legacy will be felt for years to come, inspiring future generations to strive for greatness and leaving an indelible mark on the annals of Ballon d’Or history.

Ballon d’Or: A Prestigious Football Award

2021 Ballon d'Or Award given to Lionel Messi

As a symbol of footballing excellence, the Ballon d’Or, also known as the Golden or Ballon d’or feminin,, is awarded annually to the best male and female players in the world, acknowledging their outstanding performances throughout a calendar year. The history of the Ballon d’Or award is filled with legendary footballers and unforgettable moments, from its inception in 1956 to the present day.

Karim Benzema, the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner, joins an illustrious list of recipients who have etched their names in history. The award has evolved, with its scope expanding from European players to recognizing the best footballers globally. This prestigious award is a testament to its winners’ remarkable skill and dedication, showcasing the immense talent across the football world.

Evolution of the Ballon d’Or

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The Ballon d’Or has undergone significant transformations since its inception by former French footballer and journalist Gabriel Hanot. Originally known as the European Footballer of the Year award, the Ballon d’Or initially recognized excellence among European players. In 1995, the award expanded to include players of any origin active at European clubs. By 2007, it became a global prize, opening its doors to all professional footballers worldwide.

From 2010 to 2015, the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year became one. However, this collaboration ended in 2016, with the Ballon d’Or again presented by France Football and the FIFA World Player Award replaced by FIFA’s Best Award. The FIFA Ballon d’Or now stands as a symbol of individual excellence and global recognition for the world’s finest footballers.

Men’s Ballon d’Or Winners Through the Years

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The men’s Ballon d’Or winners, an illustrious Ballon d’Or winners list, attests to the incredible talent and dedication of the world’s top football players throughout Ballon d’Or history. From the inaugural winner, Stanley Matthews, in 1956 to the record-breaking achievements of Lionel Messi, the Ballon d’Or has recognized the most exceptional footballers on the planet.

Only ten players have won multiple Ballon d’Or awards, with Messi holding the record for most Ballon d’Or awards with seven victories. Other notable multiple winners include Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, and Marco van Basten, who have each taken home the trophy three times. The winners’ list also features 34 players who have achieved the incredible feat of winning the award just once, making the Ballon d’Or a true symbol of individual excellence in football.

The Ballon d’Or has witnessed numerous unforgettable moments, such as Messi’s record-breaking sixth win in 2019 and Luka Modric’s victory in 2018, ending Messi and Ronaldo’s decade-long dominance. These milestones are a testament to the ever-evolving landscape of football and the incredible talent that continues to emerge and make history in the sport.

First Ballon d’Or Winner: Stanley Matthews

Statue of Stanley Matthews winner of the first Ballon d'Or

In 1956, Stanley Matthews, an English footballer, made history by becoming the first-ever Ballon d’Or winner. Matthews’ victory set the stage for future football legends like Alfredo Di Stéfano. It began an illustrious tradition that continues to recognize the world’s best footballers.

Matthews’ groundbreaking win paved the way for a diverse array of footballers from various nationalities to claim the prestigious award. Over the years, the Ballon d’Or has recognized the incredible achievements of football icons such as George Weah, the first non-European winner in 1995, and Brazil’s Ronaldo, the first South American winner in 1997.

Matthews’ inaugural victory remains an iconic moment in Ballon d’Or history, symbolizing the beginning of a storied tradition that has celebrated the pinnacle of footballing excellence for over six decades.

Women’s Ballon d’Or: Trailblazers and Champions

Ada Hegerberg celebrating during a soccer game.

Introduced in 2018, the Ballon d’Or Feminin rapidly emerged as a symbol of excellence and recognition for the world’s best female football players. This prestigious annual award honors the trailblazers and champions of women’s football, showcasing these remarkable athletes’ immense talent and dedication.

Ada Hegerberg, a Norwegian striker, made history as the first Ballon d’Or Féminin winner in 2018, setting a new standard for female footballers to aspire to. Since then, Lieke Martens, Marta, and Megan Rapinoe have joined Hegerberg in the annals of women’s Ballon d’Or history, emphasizing the incredible achievements and impact of these inspiring women in football.

Inaugural Ballon d’Or Féminin Winner: Ada Hegerberg

Ada Hegerberg marked a significant milestone in women’s football by becoming the first Ballon d’Or Féminin winner in 2018. A three-time Women’s Champions League winner and a prolific scorer for Olympique Lyonnais, Hegerberg’s incredible achievements have earned her a place among the football elite.

Hegerberg’s groundbreaking win not only highlights her extraordinary talent but also serves as an inspiration for future generations of female footballers. Her success has paved the way for other exceptional women to be recognized and celebrated in the football world, proving that the Women’s Ballon d’Or is a testament to the immense skill and dedication of female footballers across the globe.

Additional Ballon d’Or Awards and Honors

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Besides the main Ballon d’Or awards, France Football Magazine presents other prestigious honors acknowledging footballers’ achievements in diverse categories. Among these awards are:

  • The Kopa Trophy, given to the best U21 player in the world
  • The Yashin Trophy, awarded to the top goalkeeper of the year
  • The Gerd Müller Trophy, presented to the striker who scores the most goals in a season

These additional awards further highlight the incredible range of talent and skill in football, acknowledging footballers’ achievements across different positions and age groups. The Kopa Trophy, Yashin Trophy, and Gerd Müller Trophy serve as a testament to the depth and diversity of talent in football, celebrating the accomplishments of the sport’s brightest stars.

Ballon d’Or Winners by Nationality and Club

The diversity and talent of footballers worldwide are reflected in the Ballon d’Or winners’ list. The most successful nationalities in claiming the prestigious award are:

  • Dutch
  • German
  • Argentine
  • Portuguese
  • French

This showcases the immense skill and dedication of footballers from different nationalities.

Regarding clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid have been the most successful in producing Ballon d’Or winners, with each club boasting 12 victories. AC Milan’s back-to-back wins in 1988 and 1989 also stand out as a unique achievement in Ballon d’Or history, demonstrating the incredible talent and dedication of footballers representing various clubs, including AC Milan, worldwide.

Memorable Ballon d’Or Moments and Milestones

A picture of the list of Ballon d'Or winners of FC Barcelona.

Celebrating the achievements and impact of its recipients, the Ballon d’Or has staged unforgettable moments and milestones. One such moment is when Messi won his record-breaking sixth win in 2019, a testament to his unparalleled skill and dedication to the sport. Another highlight is Cristiano Ronaldo’s incredible international feats, including leading Portugal to victory in the 2016 UEFA European Championship and the 2019 UEFA Nations League.

In addition to these prestigious individual award accomplishments, the Ballon d’Or has also seen the introduction of new awards, such as the Club of the Year, which Chelsea claimed as the inaugural winner in 2021. These memorable moments and milestones showcase the incredible achievements of footballers and clubs alike, emphasizing the lasting impact and significance of the prestigious Ballon d’Or award.


The Ballon d’Or has been a symbol of excellence and recognition in football since its inception in 1956. From the unforgettable reign of Messi and Ronaldo to the trailblazers and champions of women’s football, the Ballon d’Or winners’ list is a testament to the incredible talent, dedication, and diversity of footballers across the globe.

As we celebrate the achievements of these legendary football icons, let us also remember the countless moments and milestones that have shaped the history of the prestigious Ballon d’Or award. May the legacy of these exceptional athletes continue to inspire and pave the way for future generations of footballers, as the Ballon d’Or remains a beacon of excellence and recognition in the beautiful game.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can win Ballon d’Or in 2023?

Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland were the favorites to win the Ballon d’Or 2023, with Messi being the record-time winner and long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo out of the picture.

Both players have had remarkable careers, with Messi having won the Ballon d’Or six times prior and Haaland scoring an incredible amount of goals in his short career.

Messi has been a consistent performer for FC Barcelona, while Haaland has been a revelation for Borussia Dortmund.

(While this question is still being asked, obviously, Messi won again.)

Who is No 1 Messi or Ronaldo?

It’s clear that Messi is No. 1. He has won more titles with FC Barcelona than Ronaldo and played for arguably the best FC Barcelona side to ever take the field.

Messi’s individual accolades are also impressive. He has won the Ballon d’Or seven times, more than any other player’s performance.

Who will most likely win the Ballon d’Or 2023?

It looks likely that Lionel Messi will take home the Ballon d’Or in 2023 with his iconic World Cup win. His massive odds-on-favorite status and impressive form during the second half of the season make him a strong contender. (This question is still being asked, but clearly Messi won in 2023.)

How many Ballon d’Or does Messi have?

Lionel Messi has won a record seven Ballon d’Or awards, far surpassing his long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who has five.

He is the only football player ever in history to have won it seven times.

Who holds the record for the most Ballon d’Or awards?

Lionel Messi is the reigning record holder for the most Ballon d’Or awards, with seven total.