Seven footballing greats who have never won the Ballon d’Or

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By John O’Leary

This year’s Ballon d’Or winner is set to be announced early next month.

Pele and Diego Maradona – considered two of the greatest players to have ever taken to the pitch – weren’t legible to win this prestigious award due to being South American.

As of 1995, the rulings changed to allow South American footballers to be considered as long as they’re currently playing their club football in Europe.

Early rumours and betting odds suggest that Cristiano Ronaldo is favourite for the 2017 Ballon d’Or, but you could expect some market movers if fellow nominees Lionel Messi and Neymar continue their early season form.

cristiano ronaldo

However, a number of the world’s finest players have still been unable to get their hands on the prestigious award. Here are seven of the very best:

Gianluigi Buffon

A player with such an established career in Serie A, football fans worldwide want to see Gianluigi Buffon bow out with a Champion’s League winners medal to his name.

He’s won a World Cup, eight Serie A titles, four Italian titles and a UEFA Cup, but sadly, for many keepers, they don’t get the recognition they deserve when it comes to individual player award ceremonies.

The only goalie to hoist the trophy was the Soviet Union’s Lev Yashin, who spent his entire career at Russian side, Dynamo Moscow.

In regard to Buffon, the former Parma stopper finished second to his Italian compatriot Fabio Cannavaro in the 2006 Ballon d’Or despite playing a crucial role in his side’s World Cup win.

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Xavi Hernandez & Andreas Iniesta

Two fantastic players in their own right, but when they were playing side by side they were at their very best.

Both players embodied Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka style during his period as manager, and both have played a major part in both Barcelona and their national team’s footballing history.

The diminutive midfielders have both finished in the top three for the Ballon d’Or on two occasions, but never reached top spot due to the genius of their team mate, Lionel Messi.

Xavi is the more decorated of the pair, but with Barcelona making a stunning start to the 2017/18 campaign, his predecessor Iniesta has plenty of time to close the gap in regard to both domestic and European honours.

Paolo Maldini

One of the finest definitions of a one club man, former AC Milan stalwart Paolo Maldini spent 25 years making 647 appearances for his beloved Rossoneri.

He came third placed in the Ballon d’Or in both 1995 and 2003, but never received the highest honour.

Despite that, there’s no diminishing the Italian’s career, with an astonishing seven Serie A titles and five European Cup/Champions Leagues titles to his name.

He is held in such high regard by Milan that the club decided to retire his famous number three shirt upon his retirement.

Thierry Henry

After finishing second in 2003, and third in 2006, former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Thierry Henry will wonder how he never grasped the Ballon d’Or during his career.

One of the finest players to watch in Premier League history, the Frenchman was part of the invincible Arsenal team of 2003/04 and finished as top scorer of the top flight on a record-breaking four occasions.

Henry finally got his deserved Champions League winners medal after leaving the Emirates for the Nou Camp, and he also has World Cup and European Championship winner’s medals to his name, making him one of the best decorated footballers of his generation.

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Ryan Giggs

Sir Alex Ferguson trumpeted Cristiano Ronaldo as the greatest Manchester United player ever, but in the eyes of many United fans, Ryan Giggs is the very best.

Giggs made 983 appearances over his illustrious career, and he boasts the most decorated playing career in British football, with 34 trophies. He also has 2009 PFA player of the year, as well as 168 goals to his name. 

Despite his mass of achievements, Giggs never lifted the Ballon d’Or, and was never considered one of the best three players in Europe at any stage of his career.

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Raul

Considered one of the greatest players in Real Madrid’s history, their former captain Raul was not only their all-time appearance maker, but was also the winner of six La Liga titles and three European Cups, playing a pivotal role in all.

He’s the third highest goal scorer in the history of the Champions League and has scored in two Champions League finals.

The closest the former Real Madrid youth product came to winning the Ballon d’Or was back in 2001 when he finished runner up to Michael Owen.

The forward retired in 2015 after a year-long stint with the New York Cosmos.

lionel messi

Football betting suggests that once again that Ronaldo will draw level with Lionel Messi on five Ballon d’Ors each. However, with still a month to go until the end of 2017, there’s still time for the Argentinian to capitalise on the Portuguese’s loss of form to take the title for himself.

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