Ballon d'Or: Ranking the top 5 forwards to have won the award
The objective of every football match is to win, and games are only won when enough goals are scored, hence it is for this reason that strikers who have perfected the art of goalscoring are highly revered.
Throughout history, we have been blessed to witness some truly legendary forwards take to the field and these men gave us memories which would forever be held dearly.
Whether it was Pele announcing himself as a teenager at the 1958 World Cup, Diego Maradona achieving mythical status in Naples in the 1980s, or Messi and Ronaldo redefining what it means to be a top-level professional athlete in the current era, we have had no shortage of iconic players who took goalscoring to new heights.
The Ballon d'Or generally rewards top-level performance from players and given their status as match-winners, it comes as no surprise that forwards have largely dominated the award's history, with over 65% of the winners since 1956.
The list of forwards to have won the Ballon d'Or contains names of players who truly revolutionized the sport and an attempt to classify them hierarchically is almost impossible.
However, some made more of an impact than others and in this piece, we shall be ranking the top five forwards to have won the Ballon d'Or.
Honorable mentions: George Best, Eusebio, Kevin Keegan, Marco Van Basten
#5 Gerd Muller (1970)
It was a very difficult decision to keep Marco Van Basten off this list, as in what was a relatively short career, the former Dutch international was an exceptional center-forward and the figurehead of the Milan team that dominated football in the late 1980s.
However, Gerd Muller was the standard-bearer for center-forwards much earlier and set the template for future stalwarts in the role including Marco Van Basten to follow and for this reason, he makes the list at the expense of the Dutch great.
In his heydey, Gerd Muller scored goals for fun and helped Bayern Munich to three consecutive European Cups, as well as numerous Bundesliga titles.
Success also came on the international stage with West Germany by way of the European Championship in 1972 and the World Cup two years later.
Even though these great sides had legendary players like Frank Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, and Uli Hoeness, Gerd Muller was the talisman of the teams, scoring the goals that helped both Bayern Munich and Germany to the most successful period in their footballing history.
Nicknamed 'Die Bomber', Muller scored goals for fun and won Golden Boots in almost every tournament he participated in, including the World Cup, European Championship, Bundesliga (seven times), and European Golden Shoe (four times).
To date, he is the top goalscorer in the history of the Bundesliga (365 goals from just 427 matches), while he is also Bayern Munich's record goalscorer (563 goals from 605 matches), Germany's (68 from 62 matches) and holds numerous other scoring records.
His previous record for most goals at the FIFA World Cup (14) was surpassed by Ronaldo de Lima in 2006, as well as Miroslav Klose in 2014, while his unbelievable total of 85 goals in the calendar year of 972 stood for many years until Lionel Messi equaled and broke the mark with 91 exactly 40 years later.
The Nordlingen native ended his career with a staggering 735 goals from just 793 matches at a ratio of 0.93 goals per game and currently sits fifth on the standing of players with most official goals in history.
It might come as a surprise to find out that despite his heroics in front of goal, Gerd Muller won the Ballon d'Or on just one occasion, but this is rather a testament to the number of all-time greats who played alongside him including Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer.