The Ballon d'Or has always remained the most coveted individual award in football. Year after year for nearly a century, the best footballers in the world have gone toe-to-toe for individual glory and competed for the prestigious Golden Ball.
Until the turn of the 21st century, the Ballon d'Or was won by a host of different players playing all across the pitch. Since 2008, though, the duopoly established by Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo took over. The pair reigned supreme and won a staggering ten successive Ballon d'Or awards between them until Luka Modric broke the streak in 2018.
While they were at five apiece, Messi overtook his rival in 2019 and won his record sixth Ballon d'Or, which is at least three more than anyone in history barring Ronaldo.
The iconic award will not be awarded in 2020 due to the unprecedented circumstances at play, but should it have been given, Robert Lewandowski would have been the frontrunner. He has been arguably the best player in the world and could have potentially won it by one of the biggest margins in the award's illustrious history.
While Messi and Ronaldo have understandably dominated the list of victories, here, we take a look at the biggest Ballon d'Or wins in history.
#10 Marco van Basten | 31.85% | 1988, 1989
Dutch legend Marco van Basten kicks off this list with two landslide victories in consecutive years. The then-AC Milan forward was simply unstoppable during this period as he helped the Oranje win the 1988 UEFA European championships, which was the solitary piece of silverware the illustrious side have registered. Van Basten was the best player at the tournament and ended as the highest scorer in West Germany.
A season after he helped the Rossoneri win an elusive Scudetto at the time, the 55-year-old followed it up with a glorious European Cup victory in 1989. His heroics with Milan — winning the Capocannoniere and scoring a brace in the European final — led him to another Ballon d'Or victory.
He received 129 votes in both years and went on to win a third in 1992. Both the seasons saw the podium occupied only by players from AC Milan, including Frank Rijkaard, Franco Baresi, and Ruud Gullit.
#9 Zinedine Zidane | 31.89% | 1998
Zinedine Zidane won the 1998 Ballon d'Or to cap off one of the most historic calendar years by an individual in football history. The Frenchman, plying his trade for Juventus at the time, helped the Bianconeri win their second successive Scudetto amidst immense competition from Inter Milan. While Zidane bested his Ballon d'Or rival Ronaldo Nazario on the domestic front with Juventus, he also managed to do so internationally as well.
The 1998 FIFA World Cup final saw a Zidane-led Les Bleus side face off against El Fenomeno's Brazil at the Stade de France. France played their rivals off the park and won the game 3-0, with Zidane scoring twice against Brazil. The current Real Madrid manager was rewarded for his incredible achievements for club and country with a landslide Ballon d'Or victory, with a whopping 244 votes in his favour. Davor Suker and Ronaldo completed the podium in second and third place.
#8 Jean-Pierre Papin | 32.41% | 1991
Jean-Pierre Papin has firmly etched his name into the folklore of French football. The diminutive forward ripped apart the French top-flight with Olympique Marseille and ended as the top scorer for five consecutive league campaigns. During his six-year spell in Marseille, the striker racked up a staggering 181 goals in 279 games, ending up as Europe's leading scorer on three separate occasions and winning four league titles.
In the 1990/91 campaign, he scored 36 goals for Les Olympiens en-route the French first division and the European Cup final and was awarded the Ballon d'Or for his achievements. Papin, to date, remains the only Frenchman to have won the prestigious award while playing for a French club.
He received 141 votes to his name to win the Ballon d'Or, with Red Star Belgrade duo Dejan Savicevic and Darko Pancev and Inter's Lothar Matthaus rounding off the podium with 42 votes apiece.