The list comprises of some of the greatest names of the sport.
Winning the Ballon d’Or has to be the one of the biggest accolades for any footballer’s career. While some people may keep a FIFA World Cup win or a UEFA Champions League triumph at a higher pedestal, but there’s hardly any better acknowledgement for individual skills than winning the Ballon d’Or. While some of the legends have won the award multiple times with their charisma and panache on the field, others have been very unfortunate to miss out on it.
One of the recent examples of a player potentially missing out on the award has to be Robert Lewandowski, who inspired Bayern Munich to a treble last season but still did not manage to bag the accolade as it was cancelled for COVID-19. Here is a list of players who came close but never won the prestigious award.
10. Ferenc Puskas
It is ironic how FIFA have named an award on Ferenc Puskas but the Hungarian legend never got his hands on the Balon d’Or. It is baffling how a player of his calibre who earned plaudits with both Real Madrid and Hungary failed to win the prize.
However, Puskas came close to winning the prize by finishing second in 1960 to FC Barcelona’s Luis Suarez. It is unbelievable how one of the players who revolutionized the game and had unimaginable feats went unrewarded.
9. Kenny Dalglish
Considered as one of the greatest players to come out Britain, it is rather shocking that Dalglish never won the Ballon d’Or. The Scotsman is considered as one of Liverpool’s all-time greats as he inspired the Reds to six league titles and three European Cups.
Dalglish came close to winning the award in 1983. He finished second that year behind Michel Platini, giving birth to the popular notion that the Scotsman was more deserving than his French counterpart that year.
8. Paolo Maldini
Considered as a benchmark in defensive greatness, the Italian legend never won the elusive prize in his career. The closest Maldini reached of winning the Ballon d’Or was in 1994 when he came third behind Hristo Stoichkov and Roberto Baggio.
Maldini was one of the greatest defenders to grace the sport and his feat of winning seven Serie A titles and five Champions League crowns for AC Milan speaks for his greatness.
7. Franco Baresi
Just like Maldini, Baresi was also considered as one of the best defenders of his era. The Italian was the backbone of one of the greatest European teams ever. Baresi was a player who consistently did his job and was very loyal to Milan. It is unfortunate that despite being one of the best, he failed to win the Balon d’Or.
Baresi’s best finish was when he came second to his Milan teammate Marco van Basten in 1989. However, as a consolation to the prize, he bagged six Serie A titles, three European Cups and several other accolades along with the 1982 FIFA World Cup with Italy.
6. Raul Gonzalez
One of the highest goalscorers for Real Madrid, Raul Gonzalez is considered as one of their greatest ever players. Raul’s exceptional ability to find the net from almost anywhere on the pitch made him the legend that he is today. He helped the club win six La Liga titles and three Champions League trophies.
Despite the goals and feats, the closest Raul came to winning the award was in 2001 when he came second to Liverpool’s Michael Owen.
5. Thierry Henry
The Frenchman is considered one of the all-time greats as he created a legacy of himself during his time at Arsenal. While Henry was prolific in bagging goals for fun, the same cannot be said about winning the Ballon d’Or. Despite coming close twice, the Frenchman had to return empty handed.
Henry finished second in 2003 to Juventus’ Pavel Nedved and then in 2006, he finished third with Pablo Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon finishing ahead of the Frenchman. The highest goalscorer for Arsenal, he has won several titles with the Gunners and later with FC Barcelona but unfortunately never managed to win Ballon d’Or.
4. Franck Ribery
Another Frenchman who had been exceptional throughout his career but never managed to win the elusive trophy. With multiple Bundesliga titles, DFB Pokal and Champions League trophies, Ribery is considered as one of Bayern Munich’s greatest ever players.
In 2013, when Bayern won the treble, Ribery finished third behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. It raised a lot of controversies as many thought the Frenchman had performed better than any other in that season.
3. Andres Iniesta
The hero of Spain’s 2010 FIFA World Cup triumph, Andres Iniesta has won everything in his career except the Ballon d’Or. One of the greatest midfielders of all time, he finished second to Lionel Messi in 2010 and third in 2012, behind Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Scoring the winner in the FIFA World Cup final would have topped all his achievements but still, it would have been nice to see Iniesta honoured with the prize.
2. Xavi Hernandez
Just like Iniesta, Xavi also holds a very crucial role in FC Barcelona’s supremacy in Europe. Considered as one of the best midfielders of all time, Xavi never won the Ballon d’Or in his career. The Spaniard was a vital cog in Barcelona’s system as he formed one of the best midfield trios with Iniesta and Sergio Busquets in the history of the club.
The Spaniard could only manage a hattrick of third-place finishes from 2008 to 2010. It is unfortunate how one of the best midfielders of the sport failed to win the accolade.
1. Dennis Bergkamp
The Dutchman was renowned for his exceptional first touch during his career. However, he is also one of the most unlucky players to have never won the Ballon d’Or. Bergkamp came third in 1992 and then followed it up with a second-place finish in 1993. While many thought the third time to be the charm for him, Bergkamp’s dreams came to an end with the Netherlands’s quarterfinals exit against Brazil.
Bergkamp’s time at Arsenal was a very successful one as the Dutchman combined with Henry and formed a very formidable attack for the Gunners. However, he never came in contention of winning the Ballon d’Or again. The Dutchman would later go on to finish his career with three Premier League titles and four FA Cups over individual awards.