Germany have produced the most number of Ballon d'Or winners in the history of football. Although the four-time World Cup-winners' last Ballon d'Or win came 23 years ago, they lead the charts with five winners and seven wins.
Bayern Munich legend Gerd Muller was the first German player to win the award in 1970. Der Bomber won the World Cup that year and topped the scoring charts with a whopping ten goals. The forward eventually retired as one of the only eight players in football to win the Ballon d'Or, FIFA World Cup, and the UEFA Champions League/European Cup.
Franz Beckenbauer was the Die Mannschaft player to lift the golden ball in 1972. The player fondly referred to as Der Kaiser became the first-ever defender to win the Ballon d'Or and repeated his achievement four years later. He also went on to coach the 1990 World Cup-winning German side.
The third Bayern Munich player on this list, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, succeeded Beckenbauer four years later. The forward won two consecutive Ballons d'Or in 1980 and 1981 for his goalscoring exploits for his country and the Bavarians. In ten years at the club, Rummenigge scored over 200 goals and helped them to two European Cups.
Die Mannschaft's domination in the Ballon d'Or standings was higher than ever during Rummenigge's second win. Three Germans occupied the podium for the very first time in the prestigious award's history. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Paul Breitner, Bernd Schuster held the first, second, and third places in the Ballon d'Or standings respectively.
After his spectacular performances from midfield en route West Germany's 1990 World Cup win in Italy, Lothar Matthaus won the Ballon d'Or. The then-Inter Milan player became the fourth German to lift the award. He also lifted the first-ever FIFA World Player of the Year in 1991. He remains Germany's highest-capped player to date.
Mattias Sammer became the fifth and, so far, last German to win the Ballon d'Or. The German sweeper helped Borussia Dortmund capture a Champions League in 1996. In the same year, he went on to win the Europan Championships with Germany and subsequently won the 1996 Ballon d'Or. He was even named as the player of the tournament in the latter.
Since then, only two Germans came close to winning the trophy, but neither succeeded. Oliver Kahn saw two third-place finishes in 2001 and 2002 after his UCL heroics with Bayern Munich. Kahn's heir for both Germany and Bayern, Manuel Neuer, came third after Die Mannschaft's 2014 World Cup win.
Apart from the Germans, Italy also have five different Ballon d'Or winners. However, they have lesser overall wins than Germany, having lifted the golden ball five times in total.
Juventus' Omar Sivori was the first Italian to win it in 1961, followed by Milan's midfield maestro Gianni Rivera in 1963. Internazionale defender Giacinto Facchetti lifted the award in 1965.
A Juventus player won it again in 1993 as Azzurri legend Roberto Baggio was awarded the golden ball for his heroics with the Old Lady. Fabio Cannavaro joined this exclusive list as the second defender to win the award in 2006.