Who is the greatest footballer of all time? The answer to this will differ according to the person who answers it. But some names might pop up more than others. For years, Ballon d’Or has been widely recognised as one of the biggest vindications of the greatest player of that year. So, who has won the most Ballon d’Or awards?
With Lionel Messi expected to win his record eighth award, here’s a look at the players who have won the Ballon d’Or most times-
1- Lionel Messi- 7 (To be 8)
Just like most people would say there’s a huge gap between the No. 1 and the rest in terms of who’s the best, the same is reflected in these rankings.
The Argentina “completed football” when he won the World Cup last winter and is set to be awarded for that achievement with his eighth Ballon d’Or soon. He is also the most decorated footballer of all time.
He was already top of the list with seven, with his wins coming in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019, and 2021.
The four-year streak from 2009 to 2012 was when Pep Guardiola was at Barcelona with him and Messi redefined and distorted what’s a good goalscoring figure. The 2011 season is when he scored 91 goals in a calendar year, still a record to this day, unlikely to ever be broken.
The 2015 season was when he won the treble with the memorable “MSN” trio.
Copa America wins combined with sustained individual and club excellence sealed the 2019 and 2021 trophies for him.
The likes of Haaland and Mbappe are recognised as the heir apparent to Messi and Ronaldo, but it would be a surprise if either player reaches Messi in this ranking.
2- Cristiano Ronaldo- 5
Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to finish his career with five awards but that’s more a reflection on the era he was born in instead of his talent.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Ronaldo would have finished with double figures in Ballon d’Or awards had Messi not existed, and vice versa.
Ronaldo’s first came in 2008 at Manchester United, when he won the Champions League with the English club and established himself as the rival to Messi, who hadn’t won any yet.
It was a Messi streak for four years before Ronaldo came back with a bang, winning in 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017 as part of the all-conquering Real Madrid side which made winning the UCL a habit under Ancelotti and then Zidane.
This iconic rivalry is now closing as after Messi’s 8th, neither player is likely to win another. Football will be poorer for their absence.
3- Johan Cruyff, Michael van Basten, and Michel Platini- 3
Dutch legend Johan Cruyff leads the list of players who won the prestigious award three times. Cruyff won it in 1971, 1973, and 1974 when the idea of “Total Football” was making the footballing world go crazy and Cruyff was at the forefront of this revolution.
Platini repeated the feat a decade later. He completed a three-peat as he won the award in 1983, 1984, and 1985. It was during his spell at Juventus that he finished the league top-scorer every year during this period, plundering trophies at an incredible rate.
Cruyff’s countryman Van Basten was the next to do it, winning the award in 1988, 1989, and 1992. Scoring almost 300 goals in a career cut short due to injuries at just 28, he could have gone on to be the best of all time. His titles came with the Milan side that were the envy of the world in the late 80s and early 90s.