Whenever an interviewer asks a footballer about their dream, everybody replies about winning trophies as a team. But deep inside, it is every footballer’s dream to get their hands on the Ballon d’Or, at least once. Many great players have ended their career without a Ballon d’Or to their name. In this article, we will look at five famous players who came agonizingly close to winning their first Ballon d’Or.
#5 Bobby Moore – 1970
Described by Franz Beckenbauer as the greatest defender football has ever seen, Moore was at the peak of his powers in 1970. He was the captain of the England team that won the World Cup in 1966. But he failed to finish in the top three of the Ballon d’Or rankings until 1970.
Amidst controversies, Bobby Moore was England’s best player during the 1970 World Cup. His outstanding tackling versus Brazil became the stuff of legend, and he was primed to win his first Ballon d’Or. However, Gerd Muller won the award, as his goals tally helped him edge Moore by just 7 points.
#4 Gary Lineker – 1986
Lineker is one of those players whose names have been forgotten with the passage of time. He was a fearsome striker at his peak and was the top scorer in the English first division with three different teams. In the 1985/86 season, he scored 30 goals for Everton, the most in the league. But it was during the World Cup in Mexico that he really staked a claim for the Ballon d’Or.
He scored six goals in the World Cup and consequently won the Golden Boot. Hence, he was the odds-on favorite for the Ballon d’Or. Surprisingly, Igor Belanov won the Ballon d’Or Soviet League and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1986.
#3 Andres Iniesta – 2010
Iniesta won the Spanish league for the second consecutive year with Barcelona in 2010. But disappointingly, they were eliminated early in the Copa del Rey and lost to eventual winners Inter Milan in UCL. However, Spain dominated the World Cup, and it was Iniesta that scored the decisive goal in the final.
Messi and Argentina struggled at the World Cup, and hence Iniesta was a Ballon d’Or favorite for many. However, Messi did win in the end by getting 22.65% of the votes, while Iniesta got 17.36% of the votes.
#2 Virgil Van Dijk – 2019
Defenders barely ever get nominated for the Ballon d’Or, forget winning it. But Van Dijk had such a dream year in 2019 and he had also won the UEFA award by the time the Ballon d’Or ceremony came around. He was at the heart of the Liverpool team that conceded just 22 goals in the league and won the Champions League.
Also, the fact that not a single player dribbled past him for a long stretch lent a lot of credibility to Van Dijk’s claim for the Ballon d’Or. Messi won the award in the end, as he was the top scorer in UCL and La Liga.
#1 Robert Lewandowski – 2021
Statistically, only Lionel Messi’s 2011/12 season in which he scored 50 goals can be compared to Lewandowski’s 2020/21 campaign. The Polish striker broke Gerd Muller’s decade’s old record of 40 goals in the Bundesliga and was in fine form in the UCL before getting injured.
So far in 2021/22, Lewandowski’s scoring rate looks even scarier, and he could very well score more than 40 league goals again. He is also set to break his own UCL record of 10 goals in the group stage.