5 superstars who failed to win the Ballon d'Or
Cristiano Ronaldo picked up another Ballon d'Or award in Paris this week. It was his fifth.
Football is a game that rewards players in three ways: money, titles, and individual awards. Even for those few footballers who enjoy a two-decade career, collecting all three is extremely rare. The Ballon d'Or is essentially the World Cup of individual awards. Winning it confirms a player’s status as the most successful and outstanding footballer for the year under review. Five Ballon d'Or awards to one man somehow seem unfair when these greats were never even recognised with one.
If goals were the criteria for choosing the Ballon d'Or winner, Thierry Henry should have had five himself. The Frenchman was the definitive prolific striker. He would always score, and can easily be regarded as Arsenal’s greatest player of all time.
As far as titles go, Henry won them all, the World Cup, the Champions League, the Euros, the Premier League, the FA Cup and many more. Yet, he was never honoured above all his peers. To add insult to injury, his closest finish saw him eclipsed by a goalkeeper and defender, when Gigi Buffon and Fabio Cannavaro pipped him in 2006.
David Beckham certainly earned his fair share of money. He collected titles in four countries, as well. In addition, his adorable physique probably attracted more followers than his football skills. Yet, the former Manchester United number 7 had no joy when it came to individual accolades like the Ballon d'Or.
It was said that no one bends it like Beckham; the then England skipper was a set-piece and long ball specialist in his day. Beckham’s best season was the 1998-99 campaign in which he helped Manchester United plunder the FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League – a treble that still reverberates in the club’s history.
For his heroics, Beckham would be named the UEFA Footballer of the Year in 1999. But when it came to the Ballon d'Or gala, Barcelona’s Rivaldo would smile home. Seen as both underrated and overrated by many, David Beckham would never reach that peak again.
Alessandro Del Piero
Among the most consistent Italian footballers of all time, the Juventus legend etched his name in history when he scored six goals to help Juve win the 1995-96 Champions League. He was only 21 at the time.
Maybe voters thought he would have more chances to take the top award home. He never did. Despite his many heroics for the Old Lady and the Azzurri, the Ballon d'Or never smiled on the Italian forward.
The closest Del Piero came to winning the coveted award was in 1998. He had finished as Champions League top scorer and named Italian Footballer of the Year. But he got beaten by then teammate, Zinedine Zidane at the 1998 Ballon d'Or award night.
Modern football has been flooded with outrageous transfer fees. Players and agents regularly force moves to accumulate even more wealth. Somehow, in that climate of greed, Gianluigi Buffon remains the most expensive goalkeeper in history. What Buffon has achieved from his limited role between the sticks is nothing short of astonishing.
Few goalkeepers have come close to matching Lev Yashin’s feat of scooping the award in 1963 and Buffon is one. After helping Italy win the World Cup in 2006, following the Zinedine Zidane incident, many thought it was time for another goalie to win the Ballon d'Or, it was, however, not to be.
Among strikers in English football, Alan Shearer remains the best. No one has more Premier League goals or hat-tricks than Tyneside's favourite son. Alan Shearer just never stopped scoring. In 1996, Shearer won the golden boot at the Euros and came pretty close to winning the FIFA World Best Player or the Ballon d'Or Onn both occasions, he came third behind Matthias Sammer and Ronaldo.
Yes, when you count the original, the name Ronaldo has been etched on the Ballon d'Or trophy seven times. It's just not fair to everyone else.