Ballon d'Or: Ranking the top 5 midfielders to have won the award
The Ballon d'Or has been handed out every year since 1956, rewarding the player adjudged to have been the best performing player in the preceding year.
Given its standing as unarguably the most prestigious individual accolade in the game of football, it should come as no surprise that some of the greatest players in history had the privilege of winning the Ballon d'Or at least once in their career.
Football might very well be a team sport, but for success to be achieved, all the individual players in a team need to come together as a unit and perform their various roles to complement one another.
When it comes to football positions, there is arguably none more important than the midfielders, as it is through the middle of the park that the bulk of coaches' tactical demands are executed.
Midfielders in essence act as the engine room of football teams, linking defense with attack, in addition to making the game more attractive to watch.
In this piece, in recognition of the overall contributions of midfielders to the game of football over the years, we shall be ranking the five greatest midfielders who won the Ballon d'Or.
Honorable mentions: Kaka, Bobby Charlton, Luka Modric, Luis Figo, Pavel Nedved
#5 Lothar Matthaus (1990)
In terms of strictly career longevity, Lothar Matthaus could well be classified as the greatest player in history, as his career at the very top of professional football lasted all of 21 years.
There are several longevity records that the German has, including being the player with the most World Cup matches (25), most capped German footballer (150), as well as the outfield player with the most appearances at different World Cups (five along with Rafa Marquez).
However, Matthaus was not just a footballer with a long career and he made an everlasting impact on the game of football.
Having started his professional career with Borussia Monchengladbach, he transferred to German giants Bayern Munich in 1984 and spent four successful years with the Bavarians before signing for Inter Milan in 1998.
Further success followed at the San Siro, with Matthaus winning three major honors in Italy before a return to Bayern Munich kickstarted what was to become the most successful period of his club career.
On the international scene, Lothar Matthaus was also extremely successful and was an integral part of the German sides that dominated football in the 1980s, culminating in the 1990 World Cup win in addition to their triumph at Euro exactly a decade earlier.
As captain of the World Cup-winning squad in Italy, Matthaus was hugely influential both on and off the field and weighed in with four goals.
He was an extremely versatile midfielder who functioned primarily as a box-to-box midfielder and incredibly played in four different decades from 1978 to 2000.
Lothar Matthaus was famed for his passing range and ability, tackling, vision, and shooting accuracy, while he was also proficient in the art of goalscoring, evidenced by the over 220 goals he scored in his professional career.
For his efforts in helping Germany to the 1990 World Cup, Lothar Matthaus was named the Ballon d'Or winner for the year, as well as winning the inaugural edition of the now-defunct FIFA World Player of the Year in 1991.