FIFA Ballon d'Or

The FIFA Ballon d'Or in stats

Ronaldo shows off the FIFA World Player of the Year award for 2002
© Getty Images

France Football triggered the trend. The esteemed magazine incepted the Ballon d’Or in 1956, an award for the best European, playing in his native continent, during each calendar year.

Thirty-five years on FIFA, having realising the desire to reward the finest individual performer from anywhere on the planet, launched the FIFA World Player of the Year gong. It was rebranded the FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2010, after a merger with France Football's long-standing award. Here, digs up some intriguing statistics from the 24-year history of the FIFA World Player of the Year/FIFA Ballon d’Or.


per cent of the winners and runners-up in FIFA World Cup™ years played in that competition’s Final. Only Hristo Stoichkov, who inspired Bulgaria to unexpectedly reach the USA 1994 semis and duly finished second, and 2010 recipient Lionel Messi, whose Argentina side were eliminated in the quarter-finals in South Africa, broke the sequence. Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Argentina forward Lionel Messi competed in the Brazil 2014 decider, while this year’s other hopeful, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, suffered group-stage elimination.


is the age which makes Brazil’s Ronaldo the youngest recipient of the award. The year was 1996 and though O Fenômeno failed to win a domestic league or continental title during it, he did lift the Dutch Cup, Dutch Super Cup and Spanish Super Cup trophies and average almost a goal per game for both PSV and Barcelona. Messi, who was 22 when he first seized the award in 2009, is the next youngest.


 trophies make South America the award’s most successful continent – two ahead of Europe. By contrast, however, seven Europeans (Matthaus, Van Basten, Baggio, Zidane, Figo, Cannavaro and Ronaldo) have been crowned compared to six South Americans (Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Messi). The only man to have broken the duopoly is Africa’s George Weah. Brazil is the most successful country (eight winners), followed by Argentina (four), France and Portugal (three), and Italy (two).


 prizes have gone to Barcelona players – twice that of their nearest rivals on this list and fiercest rivals on any field, Real Madrid. Messi has won it a record four times, with Ronaldo and Ronaldinho triumphing twice apiece, and Romario and Rivaldo also parading it at Camp Nou. Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zidane, Fabio Cannavaro and Cristiano Ronaldo took the award to the Bernabeu, while the next most successful clubs are Juventus (four winners), AC Milan and Inter Milan (three apiece).


years: that is the run of successive years on the podium Lionel Messi will achieve on 12 January – four more than his nearest challengers. *La Pulga *has finished first four times and second thrice since 2007. Cristiano Ronaldo is guaranteed his fourth consecutive podium finish at the forthcoming FIFA Gala, while the same man (2007-09) and his Brazilian namesake (1996-98) managed three on the bounce.


is the unparalleled amount of times Spain has been represented on the podium without seizing the award, two more than second-placed England. Xavi has come third three times, while Raul, Fernando Torres and Andres Iniesta did once. The latter also came second in 2010. Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer came third in 1991 and 1996 respectively, while the silver-medal spot went to David Beckham twice and Frank Lampard once.


is the number of times the award has gone to someone who played for multiple clubs during that year – thrice the same man. That was Ronaldo, who represented PSV and Barcelona in 1996, Barça and Inter Milan the following year, and Inter and Real Madrid in 2002. George Weah was the maiden multiple-club recipient in 1995 (Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan), while Fabio Cannavaro was the last in 2006 (Juventus and Real).


 players have finished runner-up on multiple occasions. Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – the Argentinian came second in 2007, 2008 and 2013, while the Portuguese did in 2009, 2011 and 2012 – at least got their hands of the prize more than once, but the other three never had that satisfaction. Hristo Stoichkov lost out to Van Basten in 1992 and his Barcelona strike partner Romario two years later, David Beckham missed out against Rivaldo and Luis Figo in 1999 and 2001 respectively, and Thierry Henry was runner-up to Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho in back-to-back years. The only other men to have finished on the podium more than once but never won the award are Xavi, Iniesta and Dennis Bergkamp, who was third in 1993 and 1997.


 goalkeepers have won the honour – a statistic Neuer will hope to change on 12 January. The 28-year-old is assured of becoming only the second player of his position to achieve a podium place, after fellow Bayern Munich and Germany No1 Oliver Kahn came second to Ronaldo in 2002. Furthermore, only three defenders have managed top-three places: Paolo Maldini and Roberto Carlos, the respective runners-up in 1995 and 1997, and 2006 winner Fabio Cannavaro.

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