The last 10 years have been heavily unfair on every Ballon d’Or aspirant who doesn’t go by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. The Messi-Ronaldo duopoly has denied many a great player the opportunity to lay hands on the Golden Ball given to the world’s best football player every year.
Similarly, there have been many players throughout the course of footballing history who have come excruciatingly close to winning the Ballon d’Or but couldn’t and we have compiled a team of XI such great players.
The Juventus legend came very close to winning the Ballon d’Or in 2006 but finished second to Italy teammate and captain Fabio Cannavaro in 2006. Buffon and Cannavaro had starred in Italy’s World Cup-winning run then along with another player on this list.
If Buffon had won, he would have become the second goalkeeper after Soviet Union’s Lev Yashin (1963) to win the prestigious award. The shot-stopper is currently plying his trade in the Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain.
The Germany legend captained his country to a World Cup win in 2014 and Bayern Munich to the UEFA Champions League in 2012/13. The right-back won eight Bundesliga titles with the German giants as well.
However, his was a very underrated career and like so many other legendary defenders, he was never really considered one of the favourites for the Ballon d’Or.
One of the three Italy legends on this list, Franco Baresi was easily the best defender during his playing days and captained Milan to three European Cups. In 1989, Baresi finished second behind teammate at AC Milan, Marco van Basten.
The central defender played for the Rossoneri throughout his career and won six Serie A titles as well. He was also a part of the 1982 World Cup-winning Italy team.
(Image Courtesy: The Guardian)
England’s legendary centre-back and the only World Cup-winning captain for the Three Lions, Bobby Moore came closest to winning the Ballon d’Or back in 1970. He finished second to Germany’s Gerd Muller.
Moore, apart from this iconic image, is famous for a tackle against Brazil’s Jairzinho in the 1970 World Cup, which is described as the perfect tackle.
Maldini is possibly the most famous defender to have played the game, and probably the most successful as well. Maldini has five Champions League titles to his name, more than quite a few great clubs.
The left-back finished third in the Ballon d’Or voting in 1994, the closest he could come to winning the award.
Andrea Pirlo played a huge part in Italy’s 2006 World Cup victory, winning the Man of the Match in the final. Then playing for AC Milan, Pirlo finished fifth in the Ballon d’Or list in 2007.
In a glittering career, Pirlo has won six Serie A and two Champions League titles as well. The deep-lying playmaker retired from the sport in 2017 and last played for New York City in the MLS.
Andres Iniesta came close to winning the Ballon d’Or twice in his career but it was the because of the Ronaldo-Messi duopoly that he couldn’t get to lay hands on the trophy. In 2010, where he scored the winner for Spain in World Cup final, he finished second to Lionel Messi.
Subsequently, two years later in 2012, the midfielder was voted as the third best player behind Messi and Ronaldo. Iniesta is one of the most successful players to have played the game and is currently lining up for Japanese club Vissel Kobe.
Like his former teammate and friend Iniesta, Xavi’s Ballon d’Or dream wasn’t fulfilled because of the two usual suspects. In 2008, 2009 and 2010, the midfielder finished third to the Ronaldo-Messi duo.
Currently playing for Qatari club Al Sadd SC, Xavi has a World Cup, four Champions League and eight La Liga titles to show for.
The Dutch legend would be the number 10 in this ‘Greatest players to have never won the Ballon d’Or’ XI. Bergkamp was at the peak of his powers in the early 90s and finished third and second on the Ballon d’Or list in 1992 and 1993 respectively.
He then moved to Arsenal in 1995 and went on to win four Premier League titles including the Invincibles season.
Real Madrid legend Raul was the highest scorer in Champions League with 71 goals until Ronaldo surpassed his numbers recently. Despite the fact that he scored as frequently as he did, he only came close to winning the Ballon d’Or in 2001, when he finished second to Michael Owen.
With Los Blancos, Raul won six La Liga and three Champions League titles before moving on to Schalke, Al Sadd and then to New York Cosmos where he retired from the sport in 2015.
(Image Courtesy: Sky Sports)
The Hungary great is believed to be one of the most prolific goalscorers to have ever played the game. In 85 matches for his national side, the forward scored an astonishing 84 goals. His record with Real Madrid is as prolific – 156 goals in 180 appearances.
Puskas came closest to winning the Ballon d’Or in 1960 when he was placed second behind Barcelona legend Luis Suarez.