The Ballon d'Or is perhaps the most prestigious award in football, bestowed on the best footballer of the year. Every player dreams of getting their hands on the coveted trophy once in their lifetime, but the trophy does not belong to the average footballer. The Ballon d'Or only graces the hands of the excellent, the one above the rest, the best among the millions around. However, since its inauguration, the award has not been kind to defenders and goalkeepers.
Also Read - Ballon d'Or 2018: Ranking the 5 favourites
The legendary Lev Yashin remains the only goalkeeper to have won the award, but defenders have not fared too well either, with only three defenders getting their hands on the distinguished trophy till date. This year, even though Luka Modric is the favourite, Frenchman Rafael Varane has an outside chance of becoming the first defender in 12 years to win the award. Having won the 2018 World Cup and the Champions League, the French defender will be hoping that he has done enough.
As the world gears up to the possibility of Varane lifting the Ballon d'Or for the first time in his career, we take a look at the 3 footballers that modern-day defenders look up to and idolize. Read on to find out the only 3 defenders in the world who have won the Ballon d'Or.
#3 Fabio Cannavaro (Italy)
At no. 3 in our list of defenders who won ballon d'or is Fabio Cannavaro. The Italian had a fabulous 2005/06 season, where he along with Buffon and Thuram formed a formidable defensive partnership that powered Juventus to the second Serie A title in two years.
In the summer of 2006, Cannavaro captained the Italy team in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, where his leadership qualities and defensive discipline gained worldwide fame. The Italian guided his country to the final of the World Cup against France and lifted the trophy at the end of an eventful night. It was an incredible achievement for a player who was already on the rise.
Cannavaro joined Real Madrid over the summer and won the FIFA World Player of the year later that year. He finished with 498 points at the end of the voting process, beating the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho to become the best player of the year. On 27th November 2006, the Italian became on the third defender in the history of the game to win the Ballon d'Or award. His fellow countryman Buffon finished second, while French striker Thierry Henry finished third. As of now, he is the last defender to win the title.
#2 Matthias Sammer (Germany)
At no. 2 in our list of defenders who won Ballon Dór is Mathias Sammer. The German had played most of his career as a midfielder when Borussia Dortmund manager Ottmar Hitzfeld made a surprise decision in the 93/94 season - he asked Sammer to play in defence, as a sweeper. Sammer had already found success as a midfielder in his career, winning the Bundesliga with Stuttgart and two DDR-Oberliga and one FDGB-Pokal with Dynamo Dresden. As such, Hitzfeld's decision had a high degree of risk, however, it was a decision that would change Sammer's life forever.
For starters, Dortmund won two back-to-back Bundesliga titles in the 94/95 and 95/96 season, with Sammer hugely influential in both seasons. He also won DFB-Supercups in both seasons. In the summer of 1996, Sammer continued in the libero role for Germany in the Euros. He scored 2 goals in the tournament and was deservedly adjudged the Player of the Tournament, as Germany became Champions. His performance had captured the imagination of football fans all over the world and he won the Ballon d'Or that year.
Sammer continued his good form with Dortmund, as the Bundesliga side won the 1997 Champions League. However, injuries hurt him in the following season and ultimately retired in 1998.
#1 Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany)
At the top of our list of defenders who won Ballon Dor is Franz Beckenbauer, who was the first defender to win the prestigious award and is also the only defender to win it more than once. The German International first won the award in the year 1972, where he saw off competition from fellow countrymen Gerd Muller and Gunter Netzer. Der Kaiser also won the award in 1976.
The legendary German is often considered to be the best defender in the history of football. Beckenbauer is also credited to have revolutionized the art of modern defending, inventing and then excelling in the role of a sweeper or the libero. He famously won three consecutive European Cups with Bayern Munich in between 1974 to 1976, besides also winning the 1974 FIFA World Cup and 1972 UEFA European Championships.
On 26th December 1972, Beckenbauer won the Ballon d'Or, becoming the second German to win the award, finishing with 81 points after the voting process in a closely contested tie. In 1976, Der Kaiser was significantly more dominant, finishing with 91 points, as he received his second Ballon d'Or on 28th December 1976.
After retiring from football, Beckenbauer won the World Cup as a manager as well and became the first footballer to win the World Cup as a captain and as a manager.
Do You think Raphael Varane deserves the 2018 Ballon d'Or? Let us know in comments.