The Ballon d'Or is an award given to the best player annually and is the best individual accolade a player can have.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the Ballon d’Or award to such an extent in the last decade or so that many of us will actually struggle to name some of the past winners of the coveted award.
Five forgotten Ballon d'Or winners:
The likes of Ricardo Kaka, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Zinedine Zidane are players who are worshipped by most fans, young and old. But there have been some past Ballon d'Or winners than many of us haven’t heard much about.
On that note, let’s take a look at five forgotten Ballon d’Or winners not many talk about:
#5 Michael Owen - 2001
A player who relied on his incredible burst of pace and clinical finishing ability, Michael Owen often found it easy to breach the meanest of defences.
Owen made his debut for Liverpool in 1997. Only a couple of years later, he was scoring memorable World Cup goals for England and finishing as the top scorer in the Premier League. Not bad for a teenager, eh?
Michael Owen lifted the Ballon d’Or award in 2001, ahead of the likes of Raul and Oliver Kahn. Despite that, not many fans talk about the retired English striker.
The Ballon d'Or winner's pace was a double-edged sword, though, as he was often fouled by defenders. With his dreaded muscle injuries plaguing the latter part of his year, things started going downhill after Owen left Liverpool for Real Madrid.
Things never really worked out for the Englishman in the Spanish capital. Subsequent spells at Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City never really saw Owen get back to his best.
Nevertheless, Owen was so much better than what the final years of his career would suggest. In an honest interview with BT Sport, Owen revealed how badly the injuries affected him. His persona in front of the camera is perhaps more popular than what he conjured as a player.
Most modern-day fans will perhaps never know how deadly a player Michael Owen once was and just how much defenders feared his searing pace.
#4 Pavel Nedved - 2003
Pavel Nedved was signed as a replacement for Zinedine Zidane. But despite enjoying an incredible spell at Juventus, not many modern-day fans talk about the 2003 Ballon d'Or winner.
Blessed with pace and incredible technical ability, Nedved was one of the most challenging players to play against on the transition. His off-the-ball work ethic also earned him rave reviews, as his game was not all about pace.
To many, Nedved’s Ballon d’Or win over Thierry Henry in 2003, a player with better stats at the time, was blasphemous. But as mentioned before, Nedved’s game was so much more than just goals and assists.
The blonde bombshell managed just 14 cumulative goals in the Serie A and the Champions League that season, but his overall contribution to Juventus was massive. In Zidane’s absence, Juventus lost some of the glitz and quality in their midfield and attack; Nedved’s arrival from rivals Lazio changed that.
With the Ballon d'Or winner on the rampage and a solid defence to boot, Juventus won the Serie A title and fell at the final hurdle in the Champions League against AC Milan. What could have been had the former Ballon d'Or winner not been suspended for that final at Old Trafford in 2003!