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FIFA World Cup: Top 5 World Cup Golden Ball winners

Robin Bairner
Top 5 / Top 10
24.33K   //    06 Jun 2018, 13:05 IST

World Cup Golden Ball
World Cup Golden Ball

The Golden Ball, the award that goes to the best player during the FIFA World Cup, was first awarded in the 1982 edition.

Italy striker Paolo Rossi was the first player to be awarded the gong and since then there have been eight further winners, with no individual having claimed the prize twice.

Often, the winner of the award has gone to a player who has not been on the winning side. Indeed, only Rossi, Diego Maradona and Romario have claimed both the World Cup and the Golden Ball in the same edition.

It has been five World Cups since this illustrious double was last completed, with four runners-up since taking the prize. The exception to that rule is Uruguay attacker Diego Forlan, who claimed the award in South Africa 2010 despite finishing fourth in the competition.

Lionel Messi claimed the Golden Ball at Brazil 2014, despite a relatively modest tournament by his illustrious standards, in which he was eclipsed by Thomas Muller and James Rodriguez in terms of goal scoring. Remarkably, James did not even break into the top three.

It is the FIFA technical committee that draws up the shortlist for the award and members of the media who vote towards the winner.

Here are the five greatest Golden Ball victors of all time:

#5 Ronaldo (France 1998)

FUSSBALL: WM FRANCE 98 Paris St.Denis, 10.06.98

On the morning of the World Cup final, the France squad’s tactical chat, which normally lasts a handful of minutes, stretched to an hour. Zinedine Zidane told L’Equipe: “I saw Lilian Thuram, Laurent Blanc and [coach] Aime Jacquet. They were talking about Ronaldo: ‘If Ronaldo dribbles like this or like that, we’ll have to combat him in this manner.’”

It was little surprise that such accomplished defenders should be speaking of the striker, who had come off an electric season with Inter and was undoubtedly the greatest player on the planet going into the competition.

In France, he had lived up to his billing, scoring four goals and creating three more as Brazil ploughed their way to the final. His mix of power, pace and deadly finishing had been to the fore throughout, most notably against Chile in the round of 16 and the Netherlands in the semi-final.

Only fate would deny Ronaldo the opportunity to really make his mark on the ultimate stage this time around. He took ill before the final, was initially named in the starting XI then withdrawn before ultimately starting the match. He was, however, just a shadow of himself and Brazil were beaten 3-0 by the host nation.

Ronaldo did manage to get a measure of personal revenge four years later as he scored both goals as Brazil beat Germany to lift the title – a fitting monument to a great career that could have been so much greater had it not been for serious injury.

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Robin Bairner
UK-based freelance football journalist for the last decade, I've appeared in publications such as the Guardian, the Blizzard, When Saturday Comes, but can most frequently be found on I write about European football, and have worked at both World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016.
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