The FIFA Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious award for an individual in football and it is awarded to the best player every year, judged by a panel of various coaches and captains of the national teams. For the past eight years, the Ballon d’Or trophy has been dominated by arguably two of the greatest players to ever grace the pitch. But, there have been a few legendary footballers who have won the award in its previous editions. The award’s inception was in 1956, crowning only the best players from Europe then. In 1995, the rules were changed, making any player plying their trade in a European club, eligible for the award.

Let’s take a look at five of the best players to bag the coveted prize before the dominance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

1. Johan Cruyff (1971,1973,1974)

Arguably the greatest European player of all time and a pioneer in the world of modern football today, Johan Cryuff needs absolutely no introduction. He was the leader of the great Dutch side that introduced the phenomenon of ‘Total football’ to the footballing faithful. It was a shame that he couldn’t win the 1974 World Cup, but the Great dutch side captained by Johan Cryuff will always be remembered for generations to come. Blessed with dazzling skill and and an eye for creativity, Cryuff orchestrated the Ajax team to three consecutive European cups from 1971. He then later went on to achieve success as a manager, winning the European cup with Barcelona. The Dutch legend won the prestigious Ballon d’Or three times. He sadly passed away last year after a long battle with cancer.

The founder of ‘Total Football’, Johan Cryuff

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