By: Κωνσταντίνος Παπαγιαννόπουλος & Κωνσταντίνος Χαραλάμπους
The Ballon d’Or (French pronunciation: [balɔ̃ dɔʁ]; «Golden Ball») is an annual football award presented by French Football. It has been awarded since 1956, although between 2010 and 2015, an agreement was made with FIFA and the award was temporarily merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year, and known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or. However, the partnership ended in 2016 and the award was reversed back to Ballon d’Or, while FIFA also reverted to its own separate annual award (now named The Best FIFA Men’s Player).
Conceived by sports writer Gabriel Hanot, the Ballon d’Or award honours the male player deemed to have performed the best over the previous year, based on voting by football journalists. Originally it was an award for players from Europe. In 1995 the Ballon d’Or was expanded to include all players from any origin that have been active at European clubs. The award became a global prize in 2007 with all professional footballers from around the world being eligible.
Stanley Matthews of Blackpool was the inaugural winner of the Ballon d’Or. Prior to 1995, the award was often known in English language media as the European Footballer of the Year award. Milan’s George Weah, the only African recipient, became the first non-European to win the award in the year that rules of eligibility were changed. Ronaldo of Internazionale became the first South American winner two years later. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have won the award a record five times each. Three players have won the award three times each: Johan Cruyff of Ajax and Barcelona, Michel Platini of Juventus and Marco van Basten of Milan. With seven awards each, Dutch, German and Portuguese players won the most Ballons d’Or. Spanish club Barcelona has the most winners, with 11 wins.Between 2010 and 2015 inclusive, the award was merged with a similar one, the FIFA World Player of the Year award, to create the FIFA Ballon d’Or, which was awarded to the world’s best male player before FIFA and France Football broke the merging agreement. After 2011, UEFA created the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award to maintain the format of the original Ballon d’Or. Eight players (Bobby Charlton, Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Paolo Rossi, Zinedine Zidane, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaká) have won the FIFA World Cup, the European Cup/UEFA Champions League and the Ballon d’Or during their careers.