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The Ballon d’Or: A Guide to Football’s Most Prestigious Award

Ballon d'or

The Ballon d’Or is a coveted individual award in football, recognizing the best male player in the world. With a rich history dating back to 1956, this award has seen numerous changes in its format and criteria. This article will provide an overview of the Ballon d’Or and its significance in the football world.

Origins and Evolution of the Ballon d’Or

The Ballon d’Or was first established in 1956 by France Football, a French football magazine. Initially, it was only open to European players, but it was later expanded to include players from all over the world. Over the years, the award has undergone several changes, including the merger with FIFA’s World Player of the Year award in 2010.

Selection Process

It is selected by a panel of international journalists, with each journalist submitting their top three choices from a shortlist of nominees. The shortlist of nominees is typically based on individual performance in the previous year, taking into account factors such as goals scored, assists, and overall contribution to the team.

A breakdown of the selection criteria and how they have changed over time.

The selection criteria for the Ballon d’Or have evolved to reflect changes in the sport and the priorities of those who vote for the award. Here is a breakdown of the selection criteria and how they have changed over time:

Individual Performance

From the award’s inception in 1956 until 1991, the Ballon d’Or was awarded solely based on individual performance. The winner is selected a panel of European journalists, who were asked to consider a player’s performance in club and international matches.

European Performance

In 1992, the award was expanded to consider a player’s performance specifically in European club competitions. This change reflected the increasing importance of European competitions like the Champions League and allowed for greater recognition of players who excelled on the continental stage.

Expansion Beyond Europe

In 2007, it was opened up to players outside of Europe, with the creation of the FIFA World Player of the Year award. This allowed for greater recognition of players from regions like South America and Africa, who had previously been overlooked.

Merit-Based Voting

In 2010, the Ballon d’Or switched from being awarded by journalists to being awarded based on the votes of national team coaches and captains, as well as a select group of journalists. This change was designed to make the voting process more transparent and to ensure that the award was based on merit rather than reputation.

Criteria Refinement

In 2016, the selection criteria were further refined to reflect changes in the sport. The new criteria included factors like a player’s “on-field performances and overall behaviour on and off the pitch”. This allowed for greater consideration of a player’s conduct both on and off the field and recognized the importance of factors like sportsmanship and leadership.

Women’s Ballon d’Or

In 2018, a separate Ballon d’Or award was introduced for women’s football. This recognized the growing importance  of women’s football and allowed for greater recognition of female players who had previously been overlooked by the award.

Notable Winners

Many great football players have won the Ballon d’Or over the years, with some even winning it multiple times. Notable winners include Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff, and Marco van Basten.

Controversies and Criticisms

Like any award, the Ballon d’Or has faced its fair share of controversies and criticisms. Some argue that the award is too heavily biased towards attackers. This is because it does not give enough recognition to defenders or goalkeepers. Others have criticized the selection process, arguing that it is  influenced by the popularity of the nominees and their respective clubs.

Impact on a Player’s Legacy

Winning the Ballon d’Or can have a significant impact on a player’s legacy. It not only signifies individual achievement but also elevates the player’s status within the football world. It is a mark of greatness, and winning multiple Ballon d’Ors is considered a rare and impressive feat.

Regional Variations

The Ballon d’Or is a global award, but its significance can vary by region. Therefore, in Europe,  it is highly coveted and often seen as the ultimate recognition of a player’s skill. Also in South America, the Copa America is often seen as a more significant award. The impact of the Ballon d’Or can also vary depending on the player’s club and national team.

Impact on Sponsorship and Endorsements

Winning the Ballon d’Or can also have a significant impact on a player’s commercial success. It can lead to increased sponsorship and endorsement opportunities, and can even elevate a player’s market value. Players who win the Ballon d’Or are the face of their sport and can command higher fees.

Future of the Ballon d’Or

The Ballon d’Or has undergone several changes over the years, and it will likely continue to evolve in the future. In recent years, there have been discussions about creating a separate award for female football players, and the criteria for the award may continue to shift to better reflect the evolving nature of the sport.

Conclusion and Significance

Despite its controversies and criticisms, the Ballon d’Or remains a highly prestigious award in the football world. Winning this award is a testament to a player’s skill and contribution to the sport. As football continues to evolve, the Ballon d’Or will likely continue to adapt and change, but its significance in the sport will remain unchanged.


it is an important individual award in football that has evolved over the years to become one of the most coveted prizes . While it has faced its share of controversies and criticisms. It remains a significant recognition of a player’s skill and contribution to the game.




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