Famous players who won the Ballon d’Or before Messi and Ronaldo-essentiallysports.com

Published 02/28/2017, 5:25 AM EST


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.

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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)

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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

2. Michel Platini (1983-1985)

Another European legend, Michel Platini was also a three time Ballon d’Or winner from 1983-1985. The former French captain was a renowned play maker and was highly rated owing to his exemplary skill and impeccable vision. The Frenchman reached the pinnacle of his career in 1984, winning the treble with Italian club Juventus. He then went on to win the European championship with France that summer, finishing the tournament as the top scorer and was also awarded the best player of the tournament. Although he could never achieve a World Cup success with France, Platini has created a legacy for himself and is rightly up there among the gods of football.
Michel Platini showcasing one of the three Ballon D’ors he won during his time at Juventus

3. Marco Van Basten (1988,1989,1992)

One of the most prolific goalscorers of all time, Marco van Basten was a true champion in every sense of the word. Widely regarded as the heir to the great Johan Cryuff, Van Basten was naturally gifted with outstanding finishing abilities. He started his career with Ajax and would go on to top the Everdise scoring charts for five consecutive seasons. He then moved to AC Milan, winning a host of individual awards and titles. But his greatest achievement will undoubtedly be his triumph in the European Championship of 1988 with the Netherlands. Van Basten scored five goals in the tournament including one of the greatest goals of all time in the final against the Soviet Union. He won the Ballon d’Or three times in 1988,1989 and 1992. Sadly, his career was short lived as a series of recurring injuries forced him to retire at the age of 30.
One of the deadliest strikers of all time, Marco Van Basten

4. Zinedine Zidane (1998)

Widely considered as the greatest play maker of the modern era, Zinedine Zidane shot himself to legendary status after his heroics in the 1998 World Cup. His two goals in the final against Brazil helped France win their maiden World Cup trophy. Zidane oozed class from every nook and corner of his body. His ball control and vision was second to none, and he had a knack for scoring beautiful goals, in particular the thunderous left footed volley in the 2002 champions league final. Zidane wasn’t one to shy away from controversy though, most notably his sending off in the 2006 World cup final against Italy which sadly turned out to be his last professional game. Nevertheless, his reputation and his legacy remains untarnished and he is still widely considered as one of the greatest players of the modern era.
The master at work, the legendary, Zinedine Zidane

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5. Ricardo Kaka-2008

The last man to feature on this list, Ricardo Kaka remains the only one to beat both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to the Balloon D”or trophy. In his prime, Kaka was unstoppable. Blessed with typical Brazilian samba flair, Kaka was a world beater, helping AC Milan win the Champions League trophy in 2007. His impressive displays attracted interest from Real Madrid, which he joined for a then World record fee. Sadly, injuries plagued his career and he wasn’t able to replicate the same form that he showed during his hay day. However, he is still recognized to this day as the last man to win the Ballon D’or before it became a two horse race.

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The last player to beat Ronaldo and Messi to win the Ballon D’or- Ricardo Kaka

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Nithin John

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