Ballon d'Or: Ranking the 5 youngest winners in history

The Ballon d'Or award.
The Ballon d'Or award.

The Ballon d'Or is one of the most prestigious individual awards a player can win in football. Awarded by France Football every year, the Ballon d'Or award has been won by some of the best players ever to grace the game.

Initially, only selected journalists voted for the Ballon d'Or nominees, but since 2007, all national team captains and coaches have been given the right to vote. From that year, the Ballon d'Or award became a global one, meaning players from all over the globe were eligible to win it.

However, owing to the popularity of the game in Europe, most players plying their trade in the continent have won the Ballon d'Or award since its inception. Lionel Messi (6) and Cristiano Ronaldo (5) have won the most Ballon d'Or awards in history.

On that note, let's have a look at the five youngest Ballon d'Or winners in history.

#5 Oleg Blokhin (1975) - 23 years, 55 days

Oleg Blokhin
Oleg Blokhin

Ukrainian and Dynamo Kyiv legend Oleg Blokhin won the 1975 Ballon d'Or for his stellar exploits that year, beating Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cryuff.

In the process, Blokhin became only the second player from the erstwhile Soviet Union to bag the prestigious award, emulating the legendary goalkeeper Lev Yashin, who won the 1963 Ballon d'Or.

That year, Blokhin helped Dynamo Kyiv win the inaugural Cup Winners Cup and then scored all three goals in the two-legged UEFA Super Cup against Bayern Munich.

During his legendary career, the winger scored 59 goals in over 200 appearances for Dynamo Kyiv. He also scored 35 goals in 101 games for the Soviet Union before retiring in 1990.

#4 George Best (1968) - 22 years, 212 days

George Best
George Best

George Best became the youngest-ever winner of the then 12-year-old Ballon d'Or award when he bagged it in 1968.

Best was bestowed with the honor after he helped Manchester United win the European Cup that year by beating Benfica 4-1 in the final.

The Northern Irishman scored 32 goals in all competitions in 1967-68, including one against Benfica in the final, to help United win their first European title.

However, after the highs of that summer, Best's promising career hit a downward trough, especially after he left Manchester United in 1974. He breathed his last in 2005 after years of struggling with alcoholism.

Best scored 179 goals in over 400 appearances for Manchester United in all competitions, with the club honoring their former player by erecting a statue of him outside their Old Trafford stadium.

#3 Lionel Messi (2009) - 22 years 157 days

Lionel Messi won his first Ballon d'Or in 2009.
Lionel Messi won his first Ballon d'Or in 2009.

Lionel Messi is the most successful player in the history of the Ballon d'Or. The diminutive Argentine has won the award on a record six occasions, breaking a tie with Cristiano Ronaldo by winning the 2019 Ballon d'Or ten years after winning his first.

After a stellar 2008-09 season for Barcelona, which saw the club win six titles, Messi was the odds-on favorite to land his first Ballon d'Or.

In a landslide victory, he beat his closest competitor, Cristiano Ronaldo, by a whopping 240 votes to become one of the youngest Ballon d'Or winners.

Messi scored 38 goals to help Barcelona win the continental treble of La Liga, Copa Del Rey, and the Champions League.

The then 22-year-old also helped the Blaugrana win the Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and the FIFA Club World Cup later that year.

#2 Michael Owen (2001) - 22 years, 4 days

Michael Owen poses with his 2001 Ballon d'Or.
Michael Owen poses with his 2001 Ballon d'Or.

In 2001, Michael Owen became the first Englishman in more than two decades to win the Ballon d'Or.

Although Liverpool did not win the league title that year, the young Owen helped the Reds win the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup, and the UEFA Super Cup.

The then 22-year-old scored 24 goals in all competitions in 2000-01 and also netted in the 3-2 win over Bayern Munich in the UEFA Super Cup.

Three years after winning the Ballon d'Or, Owen moved to Spanish giants Real Madrid but endured a largely injury-plagued stint.

The English striker returned to the Premier League to join Manchester United but never scaled the same heights as his Liverpool days again.

#1 Ronaldo Nazario (1997) - 21 years, 95 days

Ronaldo Nazario became the youngest Ballon d'Or winner in 1997.
Ronaldo Nazario became the youngest Ballon d'Or winner in 1997.

Ronaldo Nazario became the youngest player to win the Ballon d'Or when he bagged the prestigious honor after a stellar year in 1997.

One of the most complete strikers the game has ever seen, the Brazilian striker scored nearly 50 goals in his loan season with Barcelona. His goals helped the Catalan giants win the Cup Winners Cup and saw them miss out on the La Liga title by just two points.

Five years later, Ronaldo would win his second Ballon d'Or, this time with Real Madrid. Despite enduring an injury-plagued career, Ronaldo scored goals galore for club and country, winning two La Liga, Copa America, and FIFA World Cup titles.

Almost two decades later, Ronaldo Nazario remains the only player to win the Ballon d'Or award before his 22nd birthday.

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Edited by Arjun Panchadar
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