The Ballon d’or has given us memories to last a lifetime. The award is handed out every year for the best player across all formats and is a testament to the good work done by the player and his team during that season. However, even this prestigious award isn’t bulletproof and has come under the scanner plenty of times for ensuring someone ‘undeserving’ picks up the win.
Since the award’s inception, a number of footballers have won the honor, but some stand out for the wrong reasons. Today, we take a look at some undeserving winners of the award:
#5 Igor Belanov (1986)
Few would have even heard of the name Igor Belanov in this day and age, but back in 1986, the Soviet Union player actually won the Ballon d’or.
Belanov was playing for Dynamo Kyiv at the time, and had racked up some goals for his country at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, putting him in the reckoning. Nobody really expected him to win however, but he was declared the winner over Gary Lineker in second place by a 22-point margin, raising questions over the authenticity of the award.
Till date, there are some who cry foul over what transpired that particular year.
#4 Lionel Messi (2010)
It’s hard to argue with Leo Messi winning anything these days, but back in 2010, plenty felt aggrieved after the Argentine lifted the award.
It was the year of Inter Milan and Jose Mourinho in the Champions League, and behind all of their success was Wesley Sneijder. The Dutchman led his team to a treble that year, and was an integral part of the Dutch squad that was unlucky to be beaten in the World Cup final by Spain.
Despite all this, Snejider didn’t even feature in the top three of the list, with Messi, Xavi and Iniesta occupying the podium. Messi went on to win, much to the disappointment of Snejider and his fans.
#3 Michael Owen (2001)
Michael Owen was undoubtedly one of the best players in his prime, and may well have become a legend of the sport had he not suffered injuries.
But despite his strong performances in the early 2000s and Liverpool winning a host of trophies, there was a feeling of unfairness when he won the Ballon d’or in 2001. Raul at Real Madrid had had a stunning season too, and many felt that perhaps he was more deserving of the award, having won the league with Los Blancos. Owen won by 36 votes in the end, and surely left a happy man.
#2 Cristiano Ronaldo (2014)
In 2014, Ronaldo may have been at his best, but that wasn’t enough for a large portion of football audiences to think he deserved winning the Ballon d’or.
The Real Madrid hitman was instrumental in his team’s domestic and continental success, but the fact that Manuel Neuer had won the World Cup for Germany that year meant that many wanted the German to win the award.
The goalkeeper was truly inspirational that year for Bayern Munich and Germany, but somehow finished only third on the list, behind Ronaldo and Leo Messi.
#1 Fabio Cannavaro (2006)
What is perhaps most annoying about the Ballon d’or award is its lack of consistency. The 2006 award was indicative of just this as Italian World Cup winning captain Fabio Cannavaro was handed the honor.
The defender may have inspired his team to a triumph but that, as can be seen in later years, was not a criteria for winning the honor. If they had to give the award to a World Cup winner, why not keeper Gianluigi Buffon?
The current PSG goalkeeper was sensational in goal for the Azzurri but couldn’t beat his compatriot to the crown. Many cried foul, but it is what it is.