There are some amazing footballers that never won the Ballon d’Or. What did we say? Some very, very amazing footballers! Wanna know who? Read along and check out our selection of the 10 best players that never won the Ballon d’Or!
10. Andrés Iniesta (Spain)
In 2010, Andrés Iniesta won major trophies for both club and country: The FIFA World Cup with Spain, and La Liga with Barcelona. Moreover, he was man-of-the-match in the World Cup final, and the scored the winning goal to deliver the “Holy Grail” for La Roja. His technique, guile, and vision was instrumental for Spain and FC Barcelona. Don Andrés was pipped to the Ballon d’Or by the super-human displays of his Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi.
9. Xavi Hernandez (Spain)
Xavi Hernandez was the engine behind both Barcelona’s and Spain’s success in the 2010s. The midfielder kept the play ticking, sometimes even going as far as registering more passes than the entire opposition team! His metronomic displays culminated in World Cups and European Cups. Unfortunately, he suffered the same fate as his compatriot Andrés Iniesta; Xavi finished third twice in the Ballon d’Or rankings, in 2010 and 2011.
8. Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)
The Dutchman makes it a hat-trick of victims for the 2010 Ballon d’Or crown. The brilliant playmaker was pulled the strings in the middle of the park to guide Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan side to a treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and the UEFA Champions League. Sneijder was also the talisman for the Netherlands as Oranje reached the FIFA World Cup final in 2010. In the end, the Dutch midfielder didn’t even manage to earn a podium finish!
7. Thierry Henry (France)
“King” Henry ruled English soil between 2002-2004. A pivotal part of Arsenal’s Invincibles, the French striker was nominated for the prestigious award in 2003, but was denied the ultimate individual prize by Juventus and Czech midfielder Pavel Nedved. A lack of success in European competitions for The Gunners and lacklustre displays for France is believed to have played a detrimental part in the Frenchman’s claim to the biggest individual honour in the game.
6. Diego Maradona (Argentina)
Diego Maradona is probably the best player never to win the Ballon d’Or. It is astonishing the great Argentine was never even nominated for the award when it is as clear as daylight that “EL Pibe de Oro” was country miles ahead of his contemporaries between 1986-1990. Maradona single-handedly inspired Argentina to a FIFA World Cup trophy, and perhaps even more impressively dragged minnows Napoli to two Serie A titles against the galactic might of AC Milan and Juventus.
5. Franck Ribery (France)
Similar to Wesley Sneijder the talismanic French winger bagged a treble of UEFA Champions League, German Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal with Bayern Munich but could only watch on in dismay as he finished third in the overall voting poll behind two of the greatest footballers to play the game: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Ribery is still sour grapes about the decision to this day, labelling it as “an absolute robbery!”
4. Paolo Maldini (Italy)
Whilst going through all the the Ballon d’Or winners, one might be forgiven for thinking that the voting system has a bias against defenders. The only player to win the award playing a defensive position in modern times was Italian centre-back Fabio Cannavaro for his World Cup heroics with Italy in 2006. Prior to that, Maldini got close on two occasions, finishing third in the Ballon d’Or votings in 1994 and 2003, expertly marshalling Milan’s defence as I Rossoneri won the Serie A and UEFA Champions League double in both years.
3. Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
A shoe-in for the 2020 Ballon d’Or, I’m sure you don’t need us to tell you that Lewandowski was denied the ultimate prize by the Coronavirus. The Polish hitman scored an astounding 55 goals, firing Bayern Munich to a treble of UEFA Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal titles. Lewa was awarded the FIFA Men’s Player Award and the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award, but the “big gold ball” managed to elude the great Pole.
2. Francesco Totti (Italy)
The brilliant Italian is heralded as one of the greats of the game. A one club man, Totti dedicated his entirety to the city of Rome and AS Roma. The second highest goalscorer of all time in Seria A, Totti traded glory for loyalty and adoration. Many believe if Er Pupone had played for one of the European super-clubs then it would be nigh on impossible to deny his talents a Ballon d’Or.
1. Romário (Brazil)
Romário isn’t talked about enough when people roll the names of great Brazilians off the tip of their tongue — from Pelé to Ronaldo, from Ronaldinho to Kaká, but Romário was every bit of a phenomenon in his pomp. A prolific goalscorer, he scored 165 goals in 167 games for PSV Eindhoven, before joining Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona “Dream Team” to conquer European football. The 1994 Ballon d’Or was awarded to his Barcelona strike partner Hristo Stoichkov as the rules stated that only players of European decent were eligible for the prize.