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The greatest XI not to have won the Ballon d'Or

Arnav Kholkar
TOP CONTRIBUTOR

Midfielder - Andres Iniesta (Spain)

Iniesta in action for Barcelona in his iconic #8 jersey, as captain.
Iniesta in action for Barcelona in his iconic #8 jersey, as captain.

Andres Iniesta was one of the most successful midfielders to have played for Barcelona and Spain. He formed a formidable partnership with fellow midfielder Xavi. Together they won almost every major title for club and country.

Iniesta made his Barcelona debut aged 18 in 2002, and played regularly in the first team from the 2004-05 season onwards. He was a first-team regular till 2018 when age started to catch up with him. The Spaniard made 674 appearances for Barcelona across competitions, scoring 57 goals and providing 138 assists.

He has won nine La Liga titles, six Copa del Rey trophies, six Supercopa de Espana trophies, four Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cups and three FIFA Club World Cup titles. With 35 trophies, Iniesta is the most decorated player in Spain's rich football history.

Iniesta was also instrumental for his national side. He scored arguably the most important goal in their footballing history against The Netherlands in the 2010 FIFA World Cup final.

Iniesta's 2010 #WorldCup final goal changed Spanish football forever!πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‘πŸ†πŸ“Ίfifa.to/epUr9NiOKM https://t.co/DMSzUDF6iZ

Iniesta was instrumental for Spain for years. He helped them lift the UEFA European Championship twice (2008 and 2012) and their first and only FIFA World Cup (2010). That makes him another no-brainer in our hypothetical XI.


Centre Forward - Ferenc Puskas (Hungary)

Ferenc Puskas in action during a charity match in Merseyside (Liverpool, England)
Ferenc Puskas in action during a charity match in Merseyside (Liverpool, England)

Ferenc Puskas is widely regarded as football's first true international superstar. He was a key member of the Hungary side that dazzled world football in the 1940s and 1950s. He led his nation to an Olympic gold in 1952, and took them to the FIFA World Cup final in 1954.

Puskas represented Budapest Honved and Real Madrid at club level, scoring a whopping 514 goals in 530 appearances across competitions. He won ten domestic titles - five at each club - but was more successful in Spain. Puskas was part of the Madrid side that won three European Cups as well as one Intercontinental Cup.

Puskas came close to winning the Ballon d'Or award in 1960 when he finished runner-up, losing out to Luis Suarez of Barcelona. He won the Golden Ball awarded to the best player of the tournament at the 1954 FIFA World Cup.

Such was his greatness that the award for the best goal scored each calendar year in world football is named after him - the Puskas award.


Striker - Robert Lewandowski (Poland)

Robert Lewandowski in action for Bayern Munich during their Champions League group game against Barcelona
Robert Lewandowski in action for Bayern Munich during their Champions League group game against Barcelona

Robert Lewandowski has been a revelation in the 2010s. He first rose to stardom during his time at Borussia Dortmund under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp. The Pole has been immense for his teams over the years, scoring goals for fun. He has also netted in clutch moments.

One thing unique to Lewandowski is his ability to score many goals as well as provide assists for his teammates. In doing so, he ensures most chances are converted into at least attempts on goal- an underrated plus point in a world leaning towards defensive football. His mouth-watering return of 483 goals and 130 assists in 648 club games across competitions backs this observation.

Lewandowski is also a prolific hat-trick scorer. His most notable such game came against Wolfsburg in 2015, when he netted five in nine minutes after coming on as a substitute.

FIVE YEARS AGO TODAY: Robert Lewandowski did the unthinkable and scored FIVE goals in just 9 minutes against Wolfsburg! πŸ–Absolutely OBSCENE. πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ“Ή @Bundesliga_EN https://t.co/xcwKFXUNpw

Among his several honours and accolades, Lewandowski has won 11 domestic league titles, five domestic cups, seven domestic Supercups, one UEFA Champions League and one UEFA Super Cup. On a personal level, his top awards include the European Golden Shoe (2020-21), The Best Award (2020) and UEFA Men's Player of the Year (2019-20), among others.

Robert Lewandowski was the favourite to win the Ballon d'Or award last year. However, the ceremony could not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lewandowski is one of the contenders to win the coveted award this year.


Striker - Thierry Henry (France)

Thierry Henry is Arsenal's and France's all-time top scorer.
Thierry Henry is Arsenal's and France's all-time top scorer.

What happened at the 2003 Ballon d'Or awards ceremony will forever remain etched in the minds of Arsenal, France and Thierry Henry fans. Despite dominating the 2002-03 season in all major statistics, Henry was snubbed. The Ballon d'Or award that year went to Juventus' Pavel Nedved instead, who had respectable numbers, but nowhere near the Frenchman's.

Henry was a player with a strong personality that shone through his game. He took on opponents with his tall and strong frame, or ran past them using his blistering pace. He scored goals galore for Arsenal and France. Henry is Arsenal's all-time top scorer with 228 goals across competitions, while he has netted 51 goals for Les Bleus.

Henry is the original piece from which many present-day strikers such as Robert Lewandowski, Karim Benzema and Romelu Lukaku have based their games on.

His exploits for Arsenal earned him the honour of having his statue installed at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. His pose in the statue was taken from his iconic celebration against bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

An iconic goal. An iconic celebration.On this day in 2002, Thierry Henry with a moment of magic in the north London derby πŸ‘‘(via @Arsenal)https://t.co/ERlVrVotVR

Henry won five domestic league titles, three domestic cups, one UEFA Super Cup, one FIFA Club World Cup and one Champions League title. Titi also won the FIFA World Cup with France in 1998, as well as the UEFA European Championship two years later.

His phenomenal goalscoring record is enough to earn the man a spot on this list.


Final Formation

We have chosen a modified formation for this team - a version of the classic 4-3-3.

Sportskeeda's Greatest XI who have not won the prestigious Ballon d'Or award
Sportskeeda's Greatest XI who have not won the prestigious Ballon d'Or award

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Edited by Bhargav
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