The FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League, and Ballon d'Or are by far the three most prestigious honors in football. Winning the FIFA World Cup is reaching the pinnacle of international football. Conquering the UEFA Champions League takes one to the summit of club football, making them the best in Europe. Finally, the Ballon d'Or is the most coveted individual accolade, which is handed out to the standout performer of a calendar year.
Winning one of the three honors is a huge deal in itself, but there are nine aliens who have collected all three. Now, without further ado, let us check out the only nine players in history who have won the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League, and Ballon d'Or.
#9 Bobby Charlton
Sir Bobby Charlton is the only Englishman in history to win the UEFA Champions League, FIFA World Cup, and the Ballon d'Or. The Manchester United icon won the World Cup with England in 1966, scoring thrice in six matches. Charlton scored twice as England beat Portugal 2-1 in the semi-finals. On the back of his immense display at the 1966 World Cup, Charlton was awarded the Ballon d'Or. In his career, the attacking midfielder played 14 World Cup games, netting four times.
Charlton won the UEFA Champions League with the Red Devils in the 1967-68 season, helping their cause with two goals in nine games. Over the course of his decorated career, the three-time English champion played 28 UEFA Champions League games and scored 10 goals.
#8 Franz Beckenbauer
The only defender in history to attain the trifecta, Franz Beckenbauer won the 1972 European Championship and the 1974 FIFA World Cup with Germany. Beckenbauer won the first of his two Ballons d’Or in 1972, courtesy of his exploits with Die Mannschaft. Beckenbauer played in 18 World Cup games in his career, scoring five times.
Beckenbauer won three consecutive UEFA Champions League titles with Bayern Munich (1974, 1975, 1976). For his excellent performances as a sweeper and leadership, he was awarded the Ballon d'Or in 1976. The Germany and Bayern Munich legend played 40 UEFA Champions League matches, scoring five times and providing five assists.
#7 Gerd Muller
Arguably the greatest goalscorer in Germany’s history, Gerd Muller scored a staggering 14 goals and provided six assists in 13 FIFA World Cup matches. He scored 10 goals in six games at the 1970 World Cup as Germany finished in third place behind Brazil and Italy. His excellent displays at the 1970 FIFA World Cup won him his first and only Ballon d'Or.
Having won the Golden Boot in 1970, Muller bagged the ultimate prize in 1974 as Germany beat the Netherlands in the final. Muller scored four times over the course of the tournament, including a goal in the 2-1 win over Holland in the final.
Muller won three UEFA Champions League titles in his career (1974, 1975, 1976), with all of them coming with Bayern Munich. He played in 35 UEFA Champions League games, scoring 34 times.
#6 Paolo Rossi
The most decorated player in Italy's history, Paolo Rossi fired the Azzurri to the FIFA World Cup title in 1982. He scored six goals in seven games in the tournament, one of which came in the 3-1 win over Germany in the final. Rossi, who netted nine goals and claimed three assists in 14 World Cup games in his career, won the Ballon d'Or at the end of the year (1982).
Rossi was also a sensation for Juventus, helping them to two Serie A titles (1981-82, 1983-84) and a UEFA Champions League trophy (1984-85). Rossi scored 10 goals in 18 Champions League games in his career. Five of his 10 strikes came in the victorious 1984-85 season (nine games).
#5 Zinedine Zidane
Arguably the greatest French player in the history of football, Zinedine Zidane was a force to be reckoned with. The attacking midfielder was impossible to shake off the ball, possessed enviable vision, and had a knack for popping up with clutch goals.
Zidane won the FIFA World Cup with France in 1998, scoring twice in the final against Brazil. Having helped Juventus to the Serie A title and France to their first-ever World Cup, Zidane was awarded the Ballon d'Or in 1998.
He nearly took them to another World Cup in 2006, but it simply was not meant to be. Zidane, who had scored a penalty in the final, saw a straight red card for headbutting Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the second half of extra time. France eventually lost to Italy in the penalty shootout. Zidane played 12 World Cup games in his career, scoring five times and providing three assists.
The French maestro, who scored 14 goals and provided 30 assists in 80 UEFA Champions League games, won the cup with Real Madrid in the 2001-02 season. His volley against Bayer Leverkusen in the final is still dubbed one of the tournament’s greatest goals.
One of the best Brazilian forwards in history, Rivaldo curiously did not win the Ballon d'Or after winning the World Cup or the UEFA Champions League. He won it in 1999, after winning the Copa America with Brazil and the Spanish championship with Barcelona.
Rivaldo tasted World Cup glory in the summer of 2002. He scored eight FIFA World Cup goals in 14 games, five of which came in 2002. The following year, he conquered Europe with AC Milan, scoring twice in 12 games. Over the course of his illustrious career, Rivaldo scored 27 times and provided 12 assists in 73 Champions League games.
Arguably the most esthetic player of the 21st century, Ronaldinho was part of Brazil’s World Cup-winning squad in 2002. The Barcelona legend played in five matches, scoring twice and claiming three assists. In his career, he played 10 World Cup games, recording two goals and four assists.
Ronaldinho firmly established himself as the best in the world at Barcelona. He conquered Europe in the 2005-06 campaign, leading the charge with his eye-catching displays. Ronaldinho scored a career-high seven goals and claimed five assists in 12 games in the 2005-06 season to fire Barca to UEFA Champions League glory. Overall, Ronaldinho took part in 47 Champions League games, scoring 18 times and providing 13 assists.
Ronaldinho won his first and only Ballon d'Or for his scintillating displays with Barcelona in 2006.
Brazil and AC Milan legend Kaka was a force of nature in his prime. He dribbled past players like they were not there, scored unbelievable goals, and had the ability to play defense-splitting passes as well.
Kaka won one UEFA Champions League, one FIFA World Cup, and one Ballon d'Or in his career. The Brazilian great won the FIFA World Cup with Brazil in 2002. He played in only one match as Selecao clinched their fifth World Cup title. Overall, Kaka played 10 World Cup games across three iterations, scoring once and providing four assists.
Kaka conquered Europe with the mighty AC Milan in the 2006-07 season. He won the top scorer award with 10 goals and was awarded the Ballon d'Or in 2007. Kaka played 86 Champions League games in his career, scoring 30 times and providing 25 assists.
#1 Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi became the newest entrant to this uber-exclusive club when Argentina beat France to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup on 18 December. Messi, who scored seven goals and provided three assists in seven games in Qatar, was also handed the FIFA Golden Ball.
He is the only player in history to win the FIFA Golden Ball twice (first in 2014). In total, Messi has 13 goals and eight assists in 26 FIFA World Cup games. He is the current record holder for most goal contributions (21) in the tournament’s illustrious history.
Messi has enjoyed unfathomable success in the UEFA Champions League as well, winning it four times (2006, 2009, 2011, 2015) with Barcelona. Messi, who has scored 129 goals and claimed 45 assists in 161 UEFA Champions League matches, is aiming to win his fifth European crown with Paris Saint-Germain this season.
For his sensational performances for Barcelona and Argentina, Messi has won the Ballon d'Or a staggering seven times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019, 2021), the most in history. Given the year he is having, it will be surprising if he does not bag his eighth in 2023.