Ballon d'Or is the most prestigious individual prize in football. As is often the case, it takes a team to win a match but the plaudits usually go to the ones who are involved in the goalscoring department. It is then not much of a surprise that only three defenders have won the Ballon d'Or thus far.
The first defender to win the Ballon d'Or was Germany's Franz Beckenbauer. He did it in 1972. He would then repeat that feat in 1976. Matthias Sammer, another German defender, won the Ballon d'Or in 1996 and 10 years later in 2006, Fabio Cannavaro became the third player to win it.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have exercised a duopoly of sorts over the Ballon d'Or in recent times
Since Cannavaro, only four players have won the Ballon d'Or. After Kaka won the award in 2007, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi took over and their duopoly was broken only in 2018 by Luka Modric. Messi won the latest edition of the Ballon d'Or in 2019. The award was canceled last year in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But the days are a-changing and defenders are starting to get a lot more praise than they used to in the past. Thanks to in-depth analysis and the technology that aids a thorough reading of the game, the credit is finally reaching where it's due.
Without further ado, let's take a look at five defenders who could win the Ballon d'Or in the future.
#5 Harry Maguire (Manchester United)
After a stellar showing at Euro 2020, Harry Maguire is finally starting to get the credit he deserves. Maguire is an absolute unit at the back but his game has so much more to it than just his physical attributes.
The Manchester United captain is one of the most technically proficient defenders in Europe. He is a good ball-carrier and has a passing range that'd fit a midfielder. He is tactically intelligent and is a threat from set-pieces as well thanks to his aerial ability.
Manchester United missed Maguire dearly in the final weeks of the 2020-21 season as he was sidelined with an injury. The Europa League final would have worked out differently for them had he been cleared to play. Maguire most recently made it to the official Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament after playing a starring role for the Three Lions in their run to the final.
He has also shown incredible fitness levels and is a player who wants to start every single match in a season be it in the league or a cup competition. The Red Devils are slowly starting to put together a world-class team. If they can win some trophies, Maguire will definitely come into contention for the Ballon d'Or.
#4 Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)
One of the most promising young defenders in Europe, Alphonso Davies is already a star at the age of 20. He has already won the continental treble with Bayern Munich. Davies has shown maturity beyond his years and also possesses great technique.
This enables him to play a number of roles down the left flank. He can play as a left-back, left-midfielder or left-winger. Davies possesses explosive pace, dribbling and is a great crosser of the ball.
If Davies continues to go from strength to strength, then in about five years he will be an incredible footballer. He is a spectacular attacking footballer and looks set to win plenty of trophies with Bayern Munich. However, he tore his ligament in training last week and is now set for a spell on the sidelines.