Presented to the outstanding player at each FIFA World Cup™ since 1982, the adidas Golden Ball award has always highlighted truly exceptional players. To coincide with the unveiling by the FIFA Technical Study Group (TSG) of the ten-man shortlist for South Africa 2010, FIFA.com takes a trip down memory lane to recall previous winners of the accolade.
2006, Zinedine Zidane (FRA)
The French midfield maestro was a worthy winner of the adidas Golden Ball four years ago, with his staggering masterclass in the quarter-final tie with Brazil, match-winning performance versus Spain and Panenka-style penalty against Italy securing him the prestigious award. While Zizou would doubtless have preferred to end his career lifting the actual FIFA World Cup trophy, it was still a fitting recompense for one of the best players of his generation.
2002, Oliver Kahn (GER)
At the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, the German captain became the first-ever goalkeeper to win the adidas Golden Ball. His saves propelled the unfancied Nationalmannschaft all the way to the Final, a run that featured particularly outstanding performances against Paraguay and the USA. Calmness personified on his line, the Bayern custodian was an equally commanding figure when coming out for crosses.
1998, Ronaldo (BRA)
Following on from a fantastic season for Inter Milan, Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima was many people's tip to be the undisputed star of the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Despite Brazil’s comprehensive 3-0 defeat at the hands of their French hosts in the Final, he dealt well with the weight of expectation, scoring four goals in seven games. This tournament also marked the beginning of Ronaldo’s ultimately successful quest to become the event’s leading scorer of all time; his record of 15 goals still stands today.
1994, Romario (BRA)
As explosive on the pitch as he was unpredictable off it, Romario de Souza Faria arrived in the United States at the peak of his career and in a rich vein of form. His predatory powers and electrifying pace made him practically unplayable for opposing defenders. Capable of losing his marker and creating space for himself in the box in a seemingly effortless manner, O Baixinho became an essential cog in the Brazil machine that would go on to secure their first world title in 24 long years.
1990, Salvatore Schillaci (ITA)
Prior to the start of Italy 1990, the Sicilian striker had amassed just one cap for his country, acquired during Italy’s final warm-up match. During their opening FIFA World Cup game, La Nazionale spent 75 minutes struggling to break down a resolute Austrian defence. The Italian coach then threw on Schillaci for Andrea Carnevale. Four minutes later, a legend was born, as the Juventus player, who would henceforth forever be known as Toto, headed home the first of a string of winning goals at the tournament. While his magic touch was not enough to deliver a fourth global title to the host nation, it did ensure that he came away from the competition with the adidas Golden Ball and Golden Shoe awards in his trophy cabinet.
1986, Diego Maradona (ARG)
Everything that a footballer could ever dream of, Diego Maradona duly accomplished at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. As the talismanic captain of Carlos Bilardo’s skilful side, Maradona netted five times and played a crucial role in Argentina’s march to a second world crown. And despite stiff competition from big names such as Francescoli, Scifo, Laudrup, Platini, Zico and Lineker, the Napoli legend was not to be denied, especially after netting one of football's most sublime goals in a pulsating quarter-final against England.
1982, Paolo Rossi (ITA)
The goals scored by Paolo Rossi in 1982 were pivotal to his side's success and would secure the Italian forward both the adidas Golden Ball and Golden Shoe awards. Six successful strikes in Italy’s final three matches, including an unforgettable hat-trick against the favourites Brazil, guaranteed that Rossi will always be recognised as the architect of his nation’s third world crown.