Thirty Ballon d’Or facts you *actually* didn’t know, including some Paul Scholes madness

Matt Stead
Ronaldo and Paul Scholes in 2008

Everyone knows Stanley Matthews won the first, and Lionel shared it with Cristiano between 2008 and 2017. But here are some Ballon d’Or facts you actually won’t know. Unless you do. In which case, shush.


* Karim Benzema is the first French winner of the Ballon d’Or since Zinedine Zidane in 1998.

* Karim Benzema (34 years, 9 months, 29 days) is the oldest first-time winner of the Ballon d’Or since original winner Stanley Matthews (41 years, 10 months, 18 days).

* Lionel Messi was the last Ballon d’Or winner not to be in his 30s, claiming the crown aged 27 in 2015.

* Mo Salah has never finished higher than 5th in a Ballon d’Or vote. That was his placing in 2019 and 2022. The Egyptian came 6th in 2018 and 7th in 2021.

* Heung-min Son’s 11th place at the 2022 Ballon d’Or is the highest-ever finish for an Asian player.

* Cristiano Ronaldo has received a Ballon d’Or vote in every year since 2003.

* Fifty-three English players have received at least one Ballon d’Or nomination, with Phil Foden and Mason Mount the latest to get their first nods in 2021. David Beckham has received the most (10), followed by Bobby Charlton, Wayne Rooney (both 9), Bobby Moore (7), Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and Jimmy Greaves (all 6).

* Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or the most times (7), ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (5), Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten (all 3).

* 2018 was the first time Lionel Messi finished outside the Ballon d’Or top three since 2006, when he finished joint-20th with Luca Toni and John Terry. That streak of 11 consecutive podium finishes is the longest in Ballon d’Or history, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (9).

* Manchester United have won twice as many Ballons d’Or as every other English club combined.

* Manchester United players have claimed the most Ballons d’Or without ever having a multiple winner (four – Denis Law in 1964, Bobby Charlton in 1966, George Best in 1968 and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2008).

* France Football, the originators of the award, published a re-evaluation of the winners before 1995, when only European players were eligible to win. According to the re-evaluation, Pele would be a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, while Garrincha, Mario Kempes, Diego Maradona (twice) and Romario would also have been honoured.

* On only two occasions has the Ballon d’Or’s top three been comprised of players from only one country. In 1981 Germany completed a clean sweep (Rummenigge, Breitner, Schuster). Seven years later, in 1988, the Netherlands dominated the podium (Van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard).

* On only three occasions has the Ballon d’Or’s top three been comprised of players from only one club. In 1988 (Van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard) and 1989 (Van Basten, Baresi, Rijkaard), AC Milan took home gold, silver and bronze. In 2010, Barcelona (Messi, Xavi, Iniesta) hoarded the honours.

* Argentina, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal (all 7) are tied for most Ballon d’Or wins by country. Next are France, (both 6), then Italy, Brazil and England (all 5).

* Liberia have had as many Ballon d’Or winners as Northern Ireland and Scotland (1).

* Barcelona have had the most Ballon d’Or winners by club (13). They are followed by Real Madrid (11), then Juventus and AC Milan (both 8).

* Blackpool and Dukla Prague have had as many Ballon d’Or winners as Liverpool (1), and more than Arsenal (0).

* George Weah was the first non-European and remains the only African Ballon d’Or winner.

* Paul Scholes has received the most Ballon d’Or nominations without ever receiving a single vote (5).

* Jamie Vardy was the only English player to receive a Ballon d’Or nomination between 2013 and 2016.

* Lev Yashin is the only goalkeeper to ever win the Ballon d’Or.

* Fabio Cannavaro is the only defender since 1996 to win the Ballon d’Or.

* Jimmy Greaves is the only man to receive a Ballon d’Or nomination in the same year (1961) that he played for three different clubs (Chelsea, Milan and Tottenham).

* John Jensen scored as many goals in 99 league games for Arsenal as he did receive Ballon d’Or nominations (1).

* Jamie Carragher received as many Ballon d’Or votes as Cristiano Ronaldo in 2005. They finished joint-20th.

* Asamoah Gyan, then of Sunderland, was the second-highest placed Premier League Ballon d’Or nominee in the 2010 vote.

* Cardiff (Ivor Allchurch in 1965), Scunthorpe (Ken Jones in 1959) and QPR (Don Givens in 1975) have all had one Ballon d’Or nominee.

* John Charles is the only Welshman to ever finish in the top three of a Ballon d’Or vote, claiming bronze for Juventus in 1959.

* Fulham (Johnny Haynes, 3rd in 1961) have finished on the Ballon d’Or podium before.