The birth of the FIFA Ballon d’Or

In 2010, a new chapter in football was opened with the news that France Football’s Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award have merged. FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter signed an agreement with Amaury Group President Marie-Odile Amaury on the 5 July 2010, meaning that the world’s best player will from now on be awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or each year.

“I’m delighted that Marie-Odile Amaury and France Football have extended a hand to FIFA. As a result, we have accomplished an idea that has been discussed at FIFA for a number of years now, and no doubt at France Football too: we’re going to combine our talents and experience to create a single reward for the world’s best player. It will be known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or,” said President Blatter.

Mrs Amaury added: “I’m very happy that we are teaming up with FIFA to select and present the Ballon d’Or to the best player in the world. We’ll be adding even more glory and value to this prize, and we will now be holding an even more spectacular ceremony, which will make it possible for us to reach everyone who loves the game. We are tremendously proud.”

The Ballon d’Or came into existence in 1956, and until 1994 it was presented to the best player from a European nation playing club football in a European league. Players no longer had to be European after a relaxing of the rules in 1995, but they still had to ply their trade on the Old Continent until 2007, when that condition was removed as well. The FIFA Player of the Year award operated according to the most recent version of those criteria after its creation in 1991.

The first Ballon d’Or was handed to Stanley Matthews in 1956, the 41-year-old English winger pipping Alfredo Di Stefano and Raymond Kopa to the prize. Then, 35 years later, the inaugural FIFA Player of the Year award went to German midfielder Lothar Matthaus, with Jean-Pierre Papin and Gary Lineker second and third in the standings.

Since 2005, the two honours have always gone to the same players, with Ronaldinho recognised in 2005, Fabio Cannavaro singled out in 2006, Kaka taking the plaudits in 2007, and 2008 winner Cristiano Ronaldo then giving way to Lionel Messi in 2009. Messi would go on to win the Ballon d'Or three more times consecutively, until Ronaldo broke the Argentinians streak in 2013. The Portuguese international won second consecutive Ballon d'Or and third overall in 2014.

In practical terms, the FIFA Ballon d’Or represents a fusion in terms of voting procedure as well. Votes now come from the coaches and captains of international teams – as was previously the case for the FIFA Player of the Year – and also from journalists, who used to nominate France Football's Ballon d’Or winner.