10 things you probably didn't know about the Ballon d'Or

FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2014
Ballon d'Or - A footballer's career's highest possible point

A footballer's greatest ever individual recognition that he will get in his career is the Ballon d'Or. Presented by France Football, the gong has gone on to be recognized as one of the biggest footballing awards on the planet.

The past decade has been ruled by two gentlemen but the history of the Ballon d'Or before the era of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi is pretty exciting as well.

Most of us know that the awards were started in 1956, and at that time it was widely known as the 'Golden Ball'. Also, between 2010-2015, FIFA and the France Football magazine decided to merge the Ballon d'Or with the FIFA player of the year award.

BUT there are some facts which have not yet reached the masses about the gong and its rich history. On the day of the award ceremony, Sportskeeda brings to you 10 things you probably didn't know about the Ballon d'Or:

Manchester United v Bolton Wanderers - Premier League
Paul Scholes never received a single vote in the Ballon d'Or nominations

#10 Votes and nominations

English players have had a tough time in the Ballon d'Or nominations since 2012. Before Harry Kane's nomination this year, Jamie Vardy was the only other player to receive a nomination.

Paul Scholes of Manchester United, on the other hand, was a nominee on five occasions, but sadly, never received a single vote.

Similarly, Karim Benzema of Real Madrid was nominated in 2009 but could not garner a single vote. One more surprising fact for you - Sunderland's Asamoah Gyan was the second highest placed Ballon d'Or nominee from the Premier League in 2010.

#9 Surprising nominations galore

There have been an insanely high number of surprises with the Ballon d'Or nominations and votes since its inception. Also, the clubs that the winning players represented back then sure raised eyebrows.

Blackpool for instance, have more Ballon d'Or winners than Arsenal and Chelsea and the same number as Liverpool (1). Sir Stanley Matthews won the first ever Ballon d'Or in 1956 when he was with Blackpool.

What if we tell you that Jamie Carragher and Cristiano Ronaldo were tied in the Ballon d'Or rankings? Yes, this did happen in 2005 when Carragher and Ronaldo were joint 20th in the rankings.

Also, clubs like Cardiff (Ivor Allchurch in 1965), Scunthorpe (Ken Jones in 1959) and QPR (Don Givens in 1975) have also been nominated once on the big stage.

Manchester United Trinity Statue Unveiled
Manchester United's three Ballon d'Or winners

#8 History of English players

So far, 49 English players have received a nomination, at least once, in the race for winning the Ballon d'Or. David Beckham leads the race with 10 nominations, whereas Wayne Rooney and Sir Bobby Charlton have been nominated 9 times each.

Third on the list is Bobby Moore, as a seven-time nominee, whereas the likes of Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and Jimmy Greaves were nominated 6 times.

#7 Ballon d'Or winners from England

As mentioned, Sir Stanley Matthews won the inaugural Golden Ball in 1956, at the ripe age of 41. Eight years later, Dennis Law of Manchester United won the award in 1964, followed by Sir Bobby Charlton two years later.

George Best then won it in 1968, thus completing Manchester United's "Holy Trinity". After leaving Liverpool, Kevin Keegan joined Hamburg and won back-to-back Ballon d'Or awards in 1978 and 1979.

England then got its first and only Ballon d'Or winner in the Premier League era, till date, in the form of Michael Owen, who won it while at Liverpool in 2001, after winning the mini treble.

FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2012
FC Barcelona have the highest number of Ballon d'Or winners - 11

#6 First non-European recipient of the gong

Until 1995, France Football adjudged winners only from the pool of players from European countries. 1995 saw the rule being changed for good and in that year itself, the world saw it's first and only African to win the Ballon d'Or.

George Weah won the prized trophy in 1995 after a sensational calendar year for Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan.

#5 Clubs with the most Ballon d'Or winners

Lionel Messi has won a staggering five Ballon d'Ors so far in his career. So it makes it rather easy to guess which club stands at top of the pile in this list.

But if it wasn't for Messi, FC Barcelona would still have six Ballon d'Ors in their trophy room. The Catalans have 11 winners in their ranks, with Messi winning five of them.

Luis Suarez was the first in 1960, Johan Cruyff won it twice while Hristo Stoichkov, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho were the other winners. Real Madrid follow FC Barcelona with nine Ballon d'Or winners, whereas Juventus and AC Milan are joint-third with eight each.

Lev Yashin - the only goalkeeper to win the golden ball
Lev Yashin - the only goalkeeper to win the golden ball

#4 Countries with the most Ballon d'Or winners

Despite Brazil, Portugal and Argentina ruling the rooster in this regard since the turn of the century, interestingly, it is Germany and Netherlands who are the joint leaders with the highest number of Ballon d'Or winners. Both countries have seen their players win it a staggering seven times, apiece.

Johan Cruyff and Marco Van Basten won it three times for the Dutch whereas Ruud Gullit won it once. For the Germans, Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge won it twice each, whereas the likes of Gerd Muller, Lothar Matthaus and Mattias Sammer won it once in their careers.

France follow these two countries with six Ballon d'Or winners - Michel Platini (3), Raymond Kopa, Jean-Pierre Papin and Zinedine Zidane being the winners whereas Portugal are fourth in the list with three different Ballon d'Or winners in the form of Eusebio, Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo.

#3 Defenders and goalkeepers have had it tough

In the 61 years of the Ballon d'Or, only one goalkeeper has won the award in what is a damning evidence on the credit given to the goalkeepers in the business.

Lev Yashin of Russia remains the only custodian to win the Ballon d'Or till date. The Russian won it in 1963 for his excellent displays for Dynamo Moscow.

A more surprising fact is that only four defenders till date has won the Ballon d'Or in what is in reality, a sad state of affairs. 2006 is the year where a defender last won the gong with Italy's Fabio Cannavaro being adjudged as the player of the year.

Before him, Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthaus and Mattias Sammer remain the only other defenders to win the Ballon d'Or.

Pele would have won Ballon d'Or seven times, according to a study

#2 One club dominance

There have been three occasions in the history of this award that three players from the same team have shared the podium in an ultimate show of domination. One team has even done it twice in a row! AC Milan did it in two successive years, in 1988 and 1989.

In 1988, Milan's trio of Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard were the top three players of the year while a year later, Van Baasten beat Frank Rijkaard and Franco Baresi to the Ballon d'Or.

The other team to achieve this feat was FC Barcelona, who in 2010, had the trio of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta standing on the podium.

Follow the Ballon d'Or 2017 Awards Live

#1 What if the Ballon d'Or was given to non-Europeans since its inception

After changing the rules in 1995, France Football did an extensive analysis of the players who would have won the award if it was open for them since 1956 - the year Ballon d'Or was started. Their study found out that Brazilian legend, Pele would have won the Golden Ball a stunning seven times (Beat that, Messi!).

The study also found out that Garrincha, Mario Kempes and Diego Maradona would have been the Ballon d'Or winners twice, while the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano and Omar Sivori would have won it once.

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Edited by Aakanksh Sanketh
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