Football may be a team sport but individuals are widely celebrated for their contributions.
“Who is better” debates often come down to goals, assists, clean sheets (for defenders/goalkeepers) and, of course, individual awards. The biggest of those is the Ballon d’Or, an award that came to being when France Football, a renowned publication from (you’ve guessed it) France, through sports writer Gabriel Hanot, felt they should honour those who have performed exceedingly well across the past year.
His vision became reality in 1956 when Sir Stanley Matthews won the inaugural Ballon d’Or (or golden ball) and we’ve not looked back since,
Down the years, in reaction to changing times, the award – voted for by journalists – has evolved.
From 1995 onwards, for example, non-European players were eligible to win. George Weah was the first to do so and the current President of Liberia dedicated his prize to his former AS Monaco coach Arsene Wenger; the man who gave him that golden opportunity.
The Ballon d’Or has been awarded to a player every year between 1956 and 2019, with 2020 the first time it has cancelled. But it’s now back for 2021 and there is a lot of conversation over who will win it this time. Even the top three isn’t completely certain, though there are early favourites.
Some famous names have graced the ‘top three’ podium in recent years, while plenty of household faces have been overlooked.
So, are you able to name every footballer to finish in the top three since 2000? Test your might with our quiz. And remember, Googling will be nothing short of dishonourable.