Lionel Messi won his 8th Ballon d’Or on Monday, so that got us thinking that we’d like to look back at the last 10 individual winners of the award and their stand-out year.
Lionel Messi (2023) - Finally cementing his place as the greatest player ever to play the game, Messi dragged his country to their third World Cup win in Qatar. The GOAT also rediscovered his best form with PSG & brought a new lease of life to new side Inter Miami and the MLS.
Karim Benzema (2022) - In 2022 Karim Benzema rightly won his first and only Ballon d’Or after leading Los Blancos to their 35th Spanish title after winning the Pichichi Trophy with 27 goals in 32 matches. He then won his fifth Champions League trophy with Real and was also the leading goalscorer in the tournament with 15 goals.
Luka Modric (2018) - Breaking up the Messi/Ronaldo Ballon d’Or dominance by being the first player to win the award in 10 ten years other than those two was Luka Modric. After another Champions League win with Real, taking Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final and being crowned the best player at the tournament, the fantastic midfielder was rightly awarded the highest individual player honour.
Cristiano Ronaldo (2017) - Can you believe it's been 6 years since CR7 last won the Ballon d’Or? Sadly now playing in Saudi Arabia, it very well could be his last. His fifth award came after another Real Madrid Champions League and La Liga double-winning season where he scored 42 goals. CR7 also led Portugal to win Euro 2016 in France.
Kaká (2007) - Beating a young Messi and Ronaldo to the award in 2007 was Brazilian magician Kaká. After helping guide AC Milan to their 7th European Cup win by avenging their loss to Liverpool two years earlier, Kaká was heralded as the best player on the planet and rightly won the Ballon d’Or. He was the fourth Brazilian and sixth AC Milan player to do so.
Fabio Cannavaro (2006) - The only defender on our list, Cannavaro captained Italy to their fourth World Cup success in 2006. Cannavaro played every minute of the tournament and kept a record of 5 clean sheets conceding on two goals. The Italian centre-back was also winning league titles with club side Juventus and secured a move to Real Madrid after the World Cup.
Ronaldinho (2005) - Two years after joining Barcelona, Ronaldinho was crowned the best player in the world. Turning around the fortunes of the Catalan club by helping them win the league in 04/05 and guiding Brazil to another World Cup, the brilliant Brazilian was undoubtedly the greatest player at that moment in time. Little did we know the young player he was nurturing would eventually outshine him.
Andriy Shevchenko (2004) - The winner of the 2004 Ballon d’Or is often seen as contentious given the year Thierry Henry had with Arsenal. Shevchenko helped AC Milan win the Scudetto and Suppercoppa Italiana, whilst scoring 36 within the voting period. Classed as one of the game's greatest-ever strikers, the Ukrainian will go down as a legend of the game but was possibly not the right choice for this award given the season some of the players who missed out had.
Pavel Nedvěd (2003) - Czech legend Nedvěd won the Ballon d’Or at the age of 31 after being instrumental in helping Juventus win both the Scudetto and reach the Champions League final, a game he missed & Juve lost, during the 2002/03 season. He also secured qualification for Euro 2004 with his national side by topping their group. Nedvěd himself was surprised to win and said "I did not even dream of winning such an award. I heard about the nominees and being among them but I did not fancy my chances too much."
Ronaldo (2002) - After fearing his career was over during the 2001/02 season, R9 managed to get himself into the Brazil World Cup squad and showed why he was the best player in the world. Spearheading the Seleção attack, he scored 8 goals to be crowned the tournament's leading scorer and scored both goals in the final to crown Brazil world champions for a record fifth time.
If you want to look like the best player in the world or the 10th best, then head over to our website where we have thousands of football shirts for you.