The Ballon d’Or award is the maximum individual honor for a professional footballer. We see players chasing that trophy season after season trying to do the best they can in order to get the prize. Some of the best in the history of the game have had the honor to win the golden ball after impressive seasons.
Moreover, there were other players who even though did good things, plenty of fans and experts didn’t believe they were worthy to be recipients of the prize. Controversial winners of this trophy have existed from a long time ago, but today we’re going to list the 10 we consider as the most scandalous and suspicious Ballon d’Or winners.
Here are the 10 most controversial Ballon d’Or winners in history.
Honorable Mention: Florian Albert (1967)
10. Matthias Sammer (1996)
Dortmund won the Champions League that year against Juventus, which was enough for the jury to believe that the German had had a better season than a young striker named Ronaldo, who enchanted everybody during his first months in Barcelona. Sammer beat Ronnie for only one point, so you know how close the voting was.
9. Igor Belanov (1986)
Lineker was the top scorer of the 1986 World Cup while ‘El Buitre’ landed as the champion of the Spanish first division and UEFA Cup. Little they knew that neither of them was to win the prize but a Sovietic player named Igor Belanov. The Ukrainian had won the Cup Winners’ Cup with Dynamo Kyiv and was one of the best players in the World Cup, even though his national team was relegated by Bulgaria in the last-16 round.
His hat-trick against Bulgaria was more meaningful for the jury than the hat-trick scored by Lineker against Paraguay or the four goals Butragueño scored against Denmark during that tournament.
8. Lev Yashin (1963)
Why? Well, he earned it in a year with no international competition for national sides, and he didn’t do good in the European Cup, either, as his team, Dynamo Moskow didn’t go too far. However, Yashin beat Milan’s star Gianni Rivera on the voting, even though he was probably the best player of that competition and ended up winning the title with his side.
7. Allan Simonsen (1977)
But, as they landed there, they were dominated by Liverpool in a 3-1 loss where Simonsen scored the only goal for his side. So, what was the problem? Well, he faced Kevin Keegan in that final, Liverpool’s biggest star and champion of the competition, so it was a shock when Allan got elected ahead of Keegan, who went to become a total legend for the Reds while the Dane spent the rest of his playing days with more grief than glory.
6. Andriy Shevchenko (2004)
He won the Serie A title with Milan that year, scoring 14 goals, but getting released in the Champions League by the surprising Deportivo La Coruña. Everybody thought Portuguese midfielder Deco was to win the honor after having won the Primeira Liga, Portuguese Super Cup, Champions League, and Intercontinental Cup with Porto; in a shocking turn of events, the Ukrainian striker earned the award over the midfielder.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo (2013)
The now Juventus star only won the Spanish Super Cup with Los Blancos, but, seeing how great he was for his national side the voting for the award was reopened. People think that additional voting could have helped Cristiano to win the award, as the maximum favorite to the honor was Bayern’s Franck Ribery, who did just great for the German giants and won 5 of the 6 competitions he played.
4. Lionel Messi (2010)
Contrary to what many considered, Messi turned out to be the recipient of the award, something that shocked everybody that day, including the Argentine star himself, who dared to say ‘I didn’t expect to win this today’. Messi’s teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez were expected to take the trophy home, as well as Dutchman Wesley Sneijder, who won the triplet with Internazionale and finished as runners-up in the World Cup.
3. Fabio Cannavaro (2006)
It was the first time a defender won the trophy, but many fans expected his teammate Gianluigi Buffon to claim the prize instead. If it wasn’t Gigi, Thierry Henry was the other one expected to win the honor as he played in both the Champions League and World Cup finals, finishing as runner-up in both competitions.
2. Pavel Nedved (2003)
The Czech player was great that season, but the majority of fans believed that Arsenal’s Thierry Henry was to get the prize. Henry’s 30 goals in the Premier League that year weren’t enough to convince the jury that he was worthy of the award and decided to give it to Nedved.
1. Michael Owen (2001)
Owen won the UEFA Cup and European Super Cup, while Raul had won two of the last three Champions League with Los Blancos, but that year he fell short and was eliminated in the semi-finals. That didn’t help him to convince the jury to give him the prize and Owen received 26 more points than the Spaniard. The most shocking Ballon d’Or winner in history, Michael Owen.