Lionel Messi did it again. The Argentine has won everything football has to offer, and on October 31, 2023, he created yet another record of being the first player to win eight Ballon d’Or. Messi was awarded after having a fantastic year where he finally won the FIFA World Cup with Argentina and Ligue 1 and Trophies de Champions with Paris Saint Germain. However, it was the World Cup trophy that tilted the favour of the award in his result over Erling Haaland, who won the treble with Manchester City.
With this win, Messi became only the seventh player in history to win the Ballon d’Or as a World Cup winner. This shows that even winning the most prestigious trophy in football is, most of the time, more is needed to be crowned as the best player of the Year. This is also the last Ballon d’Or he will win because he now plays in the Major League Soccer (MLS).
However, before Messi, others also won the coveted Ballon d’Or the same year they won the FIFA World Cup.
Bobby Charlton- 1966 England, Manchester United
One of the best players that England ever produced, Bobby Charlton, was the star of England’s only World Cup win in 1966. The player who played as an attacking midfielder, central midfielder, and left winger scored three goals while operating from the middle of the park.
His finest moment came in the semi-finals, where he scored two goals against Portugal to help England win the game 2-1. Charlton also made the All-Stars Team at the end of the tournament. Two years later, he would also be part of the team that would win the European Championship. In the same year, he was also awarded the PWA Player of the Year and was voted the best player at the World Cup.
With Manchester United, he won a total of seven trophies, including three league titles.
Paolo Rossi- 1982 Italy, Juventus
One of the best stories of redemption that football has to offer is definitely that of Paolo Rossi. In 1980, Italian Football was rocked by one of the biggest scandals in its history. Named the Totonero, the scandal revolved around players taking money to underperform to affect the result of a game and help bookies win via illegal gambling.
Several players, including Rossi (who was innocent), were handed multiple-year suspensions. However, the star striker’s suspension was revoked just in time for the 1982 FIFA World Cup, where few gave the Italians any chance of winning.
These fears were further compounded when Italy drew its first three games and only qualified because they had scored one more goal than Cameroon. Rossi was scoreless till then but got into form with a hattrick against Brazil,
He followed this up with a brace against Poland in the semi-final and one goal in the final against West Germany, helping Italy lift their third title. Later that year, he was awarded the Ballon d’Or World Cup Golden Boot, World Cup Golden Ball.
Lothar Matthaus- 1990, Germany, Inter Milan
Perhaps the greatest midfielder ever produced by Germany, Lothar Matthaus played across five World Cups for Germany between 1982 and 1998. The midfield general was part of the German team that played three back-to-back World Cup finals from 1982-1990. While they lost in 1982 (to Italy) and 1982 (to Argentina), they came with one of the strongest squads for the 1990 edition.
At the base of it was the midfield trio of Matthaus, Pierre Littbarski, and Thomas Häßler, one of the best in football history. Matthaus was the captain and led from the front, scoring four goals, including a brace against Yugoslavia.
Germany was also one of the few teams who preferred an attacking style of play, and Matthaus was their creative outlet for the same. Matthaus also won the IFFHS World’s Best Player, World Soccer Awards Player of the Year, and FIFA World Cup Silver Ball while also being named in the All-Star Team.
Zinedine Zidane- 1998, France, Juventus
The 1998 World Cup was touted as France’s best chance ever to win the World Cup, and with good reason. The side boasted the likes of Theirry Henry, David Trezeguet, Lilian Thuram, Didier Deschamps, and Laurent Blanc in their ranks. Their star, though, was Zinedine Zidane.
Despite this, the attacking midfielder was having an average tournament by his high standards. Zidane failed to score even a single goal as France reached the final, where they had to face defending champions Brazil.
However, in the biggest match of France’s football history, Zidane came into his own, scoring two goals. The Frenchman was everywhere harassing the Brailain defence. It remains to this day one of the best performances by a player in the final of the World Cup.
Zidane would win the Ballon d’Or for his performance for both France and Juventus while also being named the FIFA World Player of the Year, World Soccer Awards Player of the Year, and France Football French Player of the Year:
Ronaldo- 2002, Brazil, Real Madrid
In 2002, Brazil arrived at the World Cup in South Korea and Japan with one of the strongest squads in their history. And at the frontline of this squad was the trio of Rivaldo, Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho. All three had different responsibilities, with the onus of scoring goals on the shoulders of Ronaldo.
And the Brazilian didn’t disappoint. Ronaldo started the World Cup with a high score in every group-stage game. He then followed this up with a strike against Belgium before going goalless against England.
Ronaldo scored the only goal of the game against Turkey in the semi-finals. In the final, though, he faced his biggest rival, Germany’s number one, Oliver Kahn, who was having one of the best World Cups ever by a goalkeeper.
However, Ronaldo comfortably won the battle, scoring a brace to help Brazil win their fifth World Cup title. He also won the FIFA World Cup Golden Shoe and the FIFA World Cup Silver Ball before ending the Year with a Ballon d’Or win.
Fabio Cannavaro- 2006, Italy, Real Madrid
One of the finest players from Italy, Fabio Cannavaro, remains the last defender to win the Ballon d’Or. This came in the impressive 2006 World Cup win. The campaign in 2006, much like their 1982 one, started with the Azzurri not being among the favourites to win it. However, in Gianluca Zambrotta, Fabio Cannavaro, Marco Materazzi, and Fabio Grosso, the then three-time world champions had the best defense.
Alex Ferguson once remarked that ‘attack wins you games, but defense wins you titles.’ Italy in 2006 was the perfect embodiment of it. Being led by Cannavvaro, the Italians conceded only two goals, one own goal, and one penalty, making them the only World Cup winner in history to not concede a single goal from open play.
Cannavaro was awarded the World Cup Silver Ball and World Soccer Player of the Year while also being named to the World Cup All-Star Team.