Being one of the most successful nations in football history, you’d expect to be able to pick from a huge list of Brazilian Ballon d’Or winners.
However, it may shock you to know that only four Brazilian players have ever won the Ballon d’Or award.
Given the storied history of the nation, which includes five World Cup and nine Copa América wins, it seems bizarre that so few of their talented stars have been awarded the prestigious award.
However, there is a good reason for that – they were banned!
Not Brazilian players specifically, but any player who was not European. The award did not include-non Europeans until 1995, long after the careers of the likes of Pele or Maradona were over.
So, in the 28 years since they have been eligible, four Brazilian players have been named the best player in the world.
Here is a breakdown of Brazil’s Ballon d’Or winners, and how they were named the best player in the world that year.
Ronaldo (1997 & 2002)
Ronaldo was the first Brazilian to win the Ballon d’Or award, being named the world’s best player for his incredible time player for Inter Milan in Serie A.
Despite struggling with injuries, he netted 34 league goals for Barcelona in the 1996/97 season, before a world-record move to Inter Milan saw him bag another 25 league goals.
He also began to work on his overall game, racking up the assists in the star-studded Italian side, leading them to UEFA Cup victory in 1998.
He won the Ballon d’Or again in 2002, becoming the only Brazilian to win it twice. After three injury-ravaged seasons, he helped Brazil to win the World Cup in 2002, beating Germany in the final by scoring both goals in a 2-0 win.
What followed next was a €46 million move to Real Madrid, where he broke the record for shirt sales in just a single day.
The two-time World Cup winner started out with a bang, despite missing the first two months of the season with an injury. He netted 25 league goals that season, helping Real Madrid to the La Liga title.
After firing Barcelona to the 1998/1999 La Liga title, Rivaldo became the second Brazilian to win the Ballon d’Or.
Pipping Predrag Mijatović and Zinedine Zidane to the coveted award, it was clear that Rivaldo was a special talent for Barcelona, and one of the greatest Brazilian players of all time.
However, his win was arguable in 1999. He came ahead of Manchester United’s David Beckham in the voting that year, with many assuming the Englishman would win the Ballon d’Or.
This was because Beckham was the star of the team, as the Red Devils won the coveted Treble (Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League), while Rivaldo’s Barcelona only won La Liga that year.
However, he still had a fantastic year, scoring 25 league goals for Barcelona and a host more in the Champions League.
Nobody has captured the imagination of the fans in recent years like Ronaldinho did in 2005.
The Barcelona star had one of the most exciting seasons ever, with his skilful, yet joyous, style of play adding an entirely new dimension to professional football.
As a former World Cup winner, Ronaldinho had nothing to prove, so spent his time on the pitch simply having fun, trying things that nobody had seen before (usually pulling them off, spectacularly).
He starred for a star-studded Barcelona side that romped to the La Liga title, pipping Real Madrid to the championship by four points.
Ronaldinho was a creative and attacking force, in a side that included legends like Eto’o, Deco, Xavi, Iniesta and a young Lionel Messi.
As both a goalscorer and he creator, he lead Barcelona to a La Liga title in 2005, as well as winning the Confederations Cup with Brazil (being Argentina in the final).
Ronaldinho only won one Balon d’Or in his career, with his fast-paced lifestyle catching up with him soon after being named the best player in the world.
The last Brazilian to win the Ballon d’Or was AC Milan’s Kaka, for his performances during the club 2006/2007 campaign.
The speedy attacking midfielder put on some ridiculous performances as he led AC Milan to their last Champions League victory.
His man of the match performance in the semi-finals against Manchester United were particularly impressive and went a long way to helping him win the Ballon d’Or.
Kaka scored 15 times in the league that season – a career high at that point – to add to his Champions League heroics, marking him AC Milan’s highest scorer that season.
He became the last Brazil player to win the Ballon d’Or due to this, being named the best player in the world above Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi.
Two years later, he would sign with Real Madrid for a world-record fee, although he would never be named the best player in the world again.