Since 1956, the Ballon d'Or has served as the best parameter to adjudge the finest footballer on the planet. Voted by a panel of sports journalists alongside coaches and captains of national teams, the Ballon d'Or rewards the best and most consistent player in a single year.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have made the award their own from 2008 to 2017. However, the latter edged past his rival by adding two more to take his tally to seven. Lionel Messi only very recently won his record 7th Ballon d'Or— a record that arguably cannot be broken.
He collected the trophy at the age of 34 years and 5 months. On the same note, let's take a look at the five oldest Ballon d’Or winners in football history:
#5 Luka Modric – 33 years and 2 months
Luka Modric's Ballon d'Or victory is perhaps the most revered in recent history. The Croatian maestro was the first player to intervene in the Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi era and grab the accolade for himself.
The Ballon d'Or had been nothing but a two-horse race for many years. Modric, however, came out on top to dethrone his then-teammate Ronaldo and arch-rival Messi. Luka Modric's 2018 was arguably the best season of his illustrious career.
Real Madrid's number 10 kissed the UEFA Champions League trophy for the third time in a row and led Croatia, his national side, to the FIFA World Cup final for the first time in history. Considered one of the best midfielders of the present era and all time, Modric's game-reading skills put him on top of his competitors.
He won the 2018 Ballon d'Or trophy with a staggering 753 points in the bag.
#4 Alfredo di Stefano – 33 years and 5 months
Alfredo di Stefano is a name that has deep roots in the history books of Real Madrid and the sport itself. The Argentina-born striker is considered one of the best players of all time and is lauded for his poaching skills even today.
Los Blancos largely owe their current star status to di Stefano, as he led the Galacticos to five consecutive Champions League victories between 1956 and 1960. Real Madrid emerged as the super powers of the competition during that time and at the helm was Alfredo di Stefano.
The Real Madrid legend has bagged the prestigious Ballon d'Or award twice (1957 and 1959). By the time di Stefano won his second and last Ballon d'Or, he was over 33 years old.
#3 Lev Yashin – 34 years and 1 month
We have seen goalkeepers having their own place at the Ballon d'Or gala. However, we have never seen a shot-stopper go home with the golden ball except for Lev Yashin.
The Soviet goalkeeper was known for his goalkeeping as well as his commanding skills. Yashin often held his side's defense together and brought an air of composure to the backline.
Lev Yashin was revered for his lightning-fast reflexes and for pioneering the sweeper-keeper role that has become popular today. The Yashin trophy, which came into existence in 2019, is testament to this Soviet goalie's greatness.
#2 Lionel Messi - 34 years and 5 months
No words can describe the accomplishments of the wizard called Lionel Messi. The Argentine holds far too many records under his belt and the Ballon d'Or award is no different.
He is the only footballer to win the prestigious trophy for four times in a row (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012). He is also the only player to win the award a whopping seven times. Ever since winning his first Ballon d'Or trophy, the former Barcelona captain has never trailed in the Ballon d'Or race.
After Cristiano Ronaldo equalled his tally of five Ballon d'Ors in 2017, Messi added two more in 2019 and 2021 to increase his lead by two. Messi's 2021 included leading his national side Argentina to the Copa America title, his first ever major international trophy, as well as a Copa del Ray triumph with Barcelona.
Messi's highly decorated 2020 resulted in many believing the PSG man deserved the trophy.
#1 Stanley Matthews – 41 years and 10 months
Stanley Matthews occupies the top spot on our list of oldest Ballon d'Or winners. Sir Stanley Matthews was also the inaugural winner of the prestigious trophy. He spent the majority of his playing career at Stoke City and Blackpool.
The epitome of fitness, Matthews was able to extend his playing career until the age of 50. This is a phenomenon we have not seen since then (unless Zlatan Ibrahimovic pulls off another decade in his playing career).
An absolute poacher in front of goal, Sir Stanley Matthews barely placed a foot wrong when it came to finding the back of the net. He edged past his rivals Alfredo Di Stefano and Raymond Kopa by 3 and 14 points respectively to become the first ever Ballon d'Or winner.