The Ballon d’Or award is one of the most prestigious individual awards in football, and one that all players want to win.
The Ballon d’Or is awarded by magazine France Football, given to the best player in the world, as voted by leading football journalists.
The award did not include-non European players until 1995, long after the careers of the likes of Pele or Maradona were over.
As such, they were never given the award in their playing days (but were retroactively given trophies when France Football looked back with the new rules in mind).
However, not all winners of the Ballon d’Or were truly worthy. In this article, we’ll look at the worst winners of Ballon d’Or award, revealing why they should not have picked up the award for the world’s best players.
Kevin Keegan (1978)
Keegan scored just six Bundesliga goals for Hamburg in 1977-78 as his team finished in tenth place, as well as failing in Europe in two different competitions (Cup-Winners Cup & UEFA Super Cup).
While International performances are heavily weighted in the voting, they didn’t help the Englishman in 1978 – England failed to qualify for the World Cup that year.
Despite his incredible talent, Kevin Keegan’s 1978 performances make him one of the worst Ballon d’Or winners of all time.
Luis Figo (2000)
Luis Figo picked up the Ballon d’Or award in 2000, becoming the second Portuguese player to be named player of the year (After Eusébio in 1965).
While he played well for Real Madrid that season, many have claimed he did not deserve to win the award that year.
While not the worst Ballon d’Or winner in the world, the likes Zinedine Zidane and Francesco Totti could be argued as more deserving than Luis Figo
Even Luis Figo didn’t think he deserved the Ballon d’Or that year.
The Portuguese winger sent a message to Roma’s Francesco Totti after winning the award, stating “you deserve it” to the legendary Italian.
“Sorry for stealing the Ballon d’Or in 2000 – you deserved it,”Luis Figo to Francesco Totti after winning the 2000 Ballon d’Or award.
Michael Owen (2001)
In the 2000-2001 season, Michael Owen fired 24 goals in 46 games to help Liverpool to an unprecedented Treble.
While this doesn’t seem like a lot after the numbers Ronaldo and Messi put up in recent years, it was a fantastic achievement back then.
However, Owen barely featured in the League Cup, and scored only four goals in the Uefa Cup run, with none of his four coming in the latter stages.
The “treble” they won was not the one you are thinking of – Liverpool only won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup that year.
He pipped Raul, who scored 24 goals in 36 La Liga games for Real Madrid (as well as a further 7 in the Champions League) to the award, and is generally considered as one of the least-deserving “best players in the world” ever.
Despite scoring 25 league goals for a title-winning Barcelona side, it can be heavily argued that Rivaldo did not deserve to win the 1999 Ballon d’Or award.
While he impressed in an already-impressive side managed by Dutchman Louis Van Gaal, it seemed obvious that a Manchester United player should have won that year.
David Beckham was the front-runner for that year’s Ballon d’or – the England captain starred for Sir Alex Ferguson’s treble-winning side, and was one of the club’s most important players.
He dominated the right-hand side, with his unreal engine, incredible crossing and unbeatable free kick ability making him almost unplayable on the right wing, alongside Gary Neville.
Dwight Yorke was also one of United’s most impressive players that year, although neither man won the Premier League Player of the Year Award – despite 10 United players being included in the team of the year, the best player award went to Newcastle’s David Ginola.
Robert Lewandowski won the 2020 Ballon d’Or award, making him the first Polish player to win the historic award.
…at least, that is what you should be reading right now.
Despite being the front-runner to win the award in 2020, following a 40-goal haul that led Bayern Munich to an historic treble, he was not given the Ballon d’Or award in 2020.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, France Football cancelled the award in 2020 and failed to award a winner at all. This was despite most leagues playing full seasons, making the decision make no sense whatsoever.
Robert Lewandowski will likely never win the Ballon d’Or, making the 2020 winner of “Nobody” an absolute travesty.