Football is all about trophies and awards. On both international and club level, teams are in a constant battle for supremacy which is decided by the honors they win. Even though football is a team sport, individual awards still matter. Awards like Ballon d'Or and FIFA The Best are still the most prestigious of all.
Note: The awards considered in this list are the top individual European and FIFA awards. They include Ballon d'Or, FIFA World Player of the Year, FIFA The Best, European Golden Shoe/Golden Boot and FIFA Puskas Award.
Without much ado, let’s take a look at the ten footballers with most individual awards in world football.
#10 Ronaldinho (Brazil) - 3 awards
The ex-Barcelona star and Brazil legend closes the top 10. Ronaldinho is known for his dribbling and exquisite ball control. With his charm and calm demeanour, he won the hearts of many supporters, media personnel and fellow footballers. An attacking midfielder by trade, he also played as a forward or a winger.
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At his prime, there weren't many players who could match his level. He would often decide matches single-handedly. Throughout his glittering career, the smiling Brazilian has won three major individual awards. He has been honoured with 1 Ballon d'Or and has received the FIFA World Player of the year twice.
During his five-year spell in Barcelona from 2003 to 2008, he won numerous trophies including two league titles (2004-05 and 2005-06) and the UEFA Champions League in the 2005-06 season. With AC Milan, he landed his only and Milan's latest Serie A title in 2010-11 season.
On the international front, he won Copa America with Brazil in 1999. Two more trophies would follow in the form of 2002 FIFA World Cup and 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Ballon d'Or: 2005
FIFA World Player of the Year (2): 2004, 2005
#9 Gerd Muller (Germany) - 3 awards
With a Ballon d'Or and two European Golden Boots, FC Bayern Munich and German legend Gerd Muller comes at ninth. With 721 official goals to his name, Muller is often considered as one of the greatest forwards of all time.
A prolific striker renowned for his clinical finishing, especially in and around the six-yard box, he was a nightmare for opposing defences. Muller spent most of his professional career at Bayern Munich and scored a mindboggling 564 goals in 605 appearances. In the process, he won 4 Bundesliga (1968-69, 1971-72, 1972-73, 1973-74) titles and was instrumental in the European Cup threepeat from 1974 to 1976.
He was no slouch at the international stage either. Having scored 68 goals in 62 games for Germany, he won two international trophies. The first one came in 1972 UEFA Euro, and two years later, he would win his second at the 1974 FIFA World Cup.
Ballon d'Or: 1970
European Golden Boot (2): 1969-70, 1971-72
#8 Eusebio (Portugal) - 3 awards
In at eight is Eusebio, also known as Black Panther. With 733 goals in 745 matches, the Black Panther has etched his name in history. He was known for his speed, technique, athleticism and his ferocious right-footed shot, making him a prolific goalscorer. With 473 goals in 430 appearances, he is SL Benfica's all-time scorer.
In 1965, he became the first African-born player to win the Ballon d'Or. He won the inaugural European Golden Boot in 1968. One more would follow in 1973, thus tying him with Ronaldinho and Gerd Muller with three individual awards.
He enjoyed great success with SL Benfica, thus winning 11 Primera Liga titles and the European Cup in 1961-62 season. His 41 goals in 64 international appearances make him Portugal's second-highest goalscorer.
Ballon d'Or: 1965
European Golden Boot (2): 1967-68, 1972-73
#7 Michel Platini (France) - 3 awards
At seventh, we have former UEFA President and French footballer, Michel Platini. Often considered as one of the best footballers of his generation, the French captain won three straight Ballon d'Ors from 1983 to 1985. Despite playing as an advanced playmaker, he was a prolific goalscorer too. Having bagged a whopping 353 goals in 652 appearances for club and country, he often ranks among the top scores in the sport's history.
With a career spanning over 15 years, the former France and Juventus legend won several honours at both club and international level. He won the 1980-81 Ligue 1 with Saint-Etienne and two Serie A titles with Juventus in 1983-84 and 1984-85. With the Old Lady, he also won the European Cup in 1984-85 season.
At the 1984 UEFA Euro, he scored a tournament-record eight goals and led his nation to the title.
Ballon d'Or (3): 1983, 1984, 1985
#6 Johan Cruyff (Netherlands) - 3 awards
Dutch Legend Johan Cruyff occupies the sixth place. An intelligent and technically gifted footballer, he is often included among the greatest players in football history. He was the most famous exponent of Total Football. He played an instrumental role in lifting Dutch football from obscurity in the late 60s to a superpower in world football.
Cruyff scored 416 goals for club and country in 716 appearances. He won 9 Eredivisie titles, 8 with Ajax and the remaining one with Feyenoord. With Ajax, he won the European Cup on three straight occasions from 1971 to 1973. For his exploits with the Amsterdam club, he was awarded the Ballon d'Or three times in 1971, 1973 and 1974.
Apart from being a great player, he was a brilliant manager too. Being one of the most influential figures in football history, his style of play has influenced several managers and players, including the likes of Arrigo Sacchi, Sir Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola and many more.
Ballon d'Or (3): 1971, 1973, 1974
#5 Zinedine Zidane (France) - 4 awards
With four individual awards to his name, Zinedine Zidane comes at the fourth place. One of the finest midfielders to ever grace the game, Zidane was known for his silky ball control and sublime passing. A potent goalscorer, he has 156 goals to his name in 792 appearances for club and country.
The Former Juventus and Real Madrid legend won the Serie A in 1996-97 and 1997-98 and Supercoppa Italiana in 1997 with the Turin club. In 1998, a brilliant club season followed by France's first World Cup triumph on their home soil would propel him to his first and only Ballon d'Or and the first of his three FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 1998. He scored two goals in the final of that World Cup. Another FIFA World Player of the Year award would follow in 2000 when he helped France to the UEFA Euro 2000 title.
However, it was at Real Madrid, where he enjoyed European success. In his first season with the Spanish club, he won the 2001-02 UEFA Champions League, scoring a volley in the final which is considered to be the greatest goal scored in the competition. In the next season, he won LaLiga which led him to this third FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2003. In total, he won 6 trophies with Los Blancos and ended his club career with Madrid in 2006.
Ballon d'Or: 1998
FIFA World Player of the Year (3): 1998, 2000, 2003
#4 Marco van Basten (Netherlands) - 5 awards
At fourth, we have Marco van Basten. A prolific striker, known for his close ball control, attacking intelligence, and spectacular strikes and volleys, he still ranks among the top scorers in football with his 301 goals in 431 appearances. However, an ankle injury forced him into early retirement at the age of 28.
Despite this, he is still considered to be one of the best players of his time. With Ajax, he won three Eredivisie titles in 1981-82, 1982-83 and 1984-85. By scoring 37 goals in the 1985-86 Eredivisie, he won his first and only European Golden Boot.
However, he made his name in Arrigo Sacchi's great Milan side of the late 80s and early 90s. He won all of his 3 Ballon d'Ors with the Italian giants. In addition to this, the 1992 FIFA World Player of the Year would go on to win the Serie A three times (1987-88, 1991-92 and 1992-93) and back-to-back European Cups in 1988-89 and 1989-1990.
With the Netherlands, van Basten won the UEFA Euro 1988.
Ballon d'Or (3): 1988, 1989, 1992
FIFA World Player of the Year: 1992
European Golden Boot: 1985-86
#3 Ronaldo Nazario (Brazil) - 6 awards
Ronaldo Nazario, also known as O Fenomeno, ranks third among the players with most individual awards. With his technique, dribbling, and clinical finishing, he was a complete forward and changed the outlook of the modern striker. At his prime, he played for multiple top clubs including Cruzeiro, PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
His 414 goals in 616 appearances for club and country are enough to rank him in the pantheon of great strikers. During his single season at Barcelona, he became the youngest player to win the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1996 at the tender age of 20. Next year he would win both Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the year. Also, with the Catalans, he bagged his first and only European Golden Boot by scoring 34 goals in 1996-97 LaLiga season. He won his only two league titles that would come with Real Madrid in the form of 2002-03 and 2006-07 LaLiga.
Ronaldo won three international trophies in his career. Part of the 1994 FIFA World Cup-winning squad, he would go on to win the Copa America twice in 1997 and 1999. The best moment of his career arrived at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Having spent two years on the sidelines, he returned with a bang and scored eight goals in the tournament to lift Brazil to their fifth and most recent World Cup triumph. His exploits at the tournament would award him with the third and last FIFA World Player of the year in 2003.
If injuries didn't exist, one could only imagine what more Ronaldo could have achieved in an already trophy-laden career.
Ballon d'Or (2): 1997, 2002
FIFA World Player of the Year (3): 1996, 1997, 2002
European Golden Boot: 1996-97
#2 Lionel Messi (Argentina) - 11 awards
Lionel Messi comes second in the list of footballers with most individual awards. Considered by many players, fans, pundits, as the greatest player of all time, he has scored an insane 650 goals in 799 appearances for club and country. With his footballing intelligence, technical brilliance, crazy dribbling skills and a vision to behold, the little Argentine has become the image of a complete footballer.
Having spent his entire professional career at FC Barcelona, he has won a club record 33 trophies. The major ones include 9 LaLiga titles, 4 UEFA Champions Leagues, 3 FIFA Club World Cup and many more. Messi also holds the record for most goals scored in a calendar year, having scored 91 in 2012.
He has won a record-tying 5 Ballon d'Ors. Under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, Messi won 4 consecutive Golden Balls from 2009 to 2012. He also won FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2009. He would later add a fifth Ballon d'Or in 2015 after Barcelona's second treble in the 2014-15 season. His tally of 5 European Golden Boots is highest in world football.
Ballon d'Or (5): 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015
FIFA World Player of the Year: 2009
European Golden Boot (5): 2009-10, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2016-17, 2017-18
#1 Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) - 13 trophies
With 13 awards to his name, Cristiano Ronaldo is the player with most individual awards in world football. With a combined 679 strikes for club and country in 952 appearances, he is the highest active goalscorer in world football.
The journey started in 2008 when he won his first Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2008 after guiding Manchester United to the Premier League and Champions League double in the 2007-08 season. He also won the European Golden Boot that season, scoring 31 goals in the Premier League. Later in 2009, he won the FIFA Puskas award. From 2006-09, he won three straight Premier League titles. In total, he earned nine trophies during his six-year spell in Manchester.
Since his transfer to Real Madrid, his success has escalated to new heights. In his nine years with the club, he won 15 trophies including 2 LaLiga titles (2011-12 and 2016-17) and 4 UEFA Champions Leagues (2013-14, 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18). He has won 5 Ballon d'Ors, a record which he shares with Lionel Messi. Apart from that, he has been awarded the European Golden Boot on four occasions.
Owing to his international success with Portugal at the UEFA Euro 2016, he became the first player to be awarded The Best FIFA Men's Player in 2016. He would go on to reclaim the award again in 2017 after leading Real to their 12th European title.
After his transfer to Juventus in 2018, Ronaldo would be looking forward to adding more honours to his name.
Ballon d'Or (5): 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017
FIFA World Player of the Year: 2008
The Best FIFA Men's Player (2): 2016, 2017
European Golden Boot (4): 2007-08, 2010-11, 2013-14, 2014-15
FIFA Puskas Award: 2009