The Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious individual honour in football. Since 1956, the award has been given out every year to the best player during a calendar year.
It started out by recognising only European stars, but then expanded to include everyone, although it’s still dominated by those plying their trade in Europe.
In more recent years, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have made it a duopoly, winning 11 of the last 12 editions of the award. But many great players in the past have been recipients of the Ballon d’Or honour too.
On that note, here’s a look at the five countries with the most Ballon d’Or awards:
#5 Argentina – 6
The words ‘Argentina’ and ‘six Ballon d’Ors’ surely ring a bell? That’s because we’re talking about Barcelona ace Lionel Messi here.
La Pulga (6) is the player with the most Ballon d’Or awards in history, which is also the most for a single club and the most for a country by a single player.
These are awe-inspiring numbers and reflect the kind of impact Messi has had. But it’s also startling that no other player from Argentina has won the award despite the Albiceleste having some absolute legends gracing their sky blue colours over the years.
Alfredo di Stefano and Omar Sivori are the only two Argentina-born winners of the Ballon d’Or award besides Messi. But the duo had already sworn allegiance to Spain and Italy respectively by the time they won the Ballon d’Or.
Diego Maradona could’ve won it in 1986 for his exploits in the FIFA World Cup that year if only the award was given out to non-European players back then. Meanwhile, others like Diego Simeone, Javier Zanetti and Gabriel Batistuta didn’t even make the cut into the top three nominations after the Ballon d’Or award went global.
#4 France – 6
France have also collected six Ballon d’Or awards, but have had three more representatives than Argentina.
Raymond Kopa was the first French player to win the award in 1958, before Michel Platini’s historic Ballon d’Or hat-trick from 1983 to 1985. In the 90s, Marseille legend Jean-Pierre Papin was awarded the Ballon d’Or award after guiding his side to Champions League glory in 1993.
Zinedine Zidane‘s heroics in France’s triumphant FIFA World Cup 1998 campaign fetched him the coveted honour that year.
Zidane remains the last Frenchman to get his hands on the Ballon d’Or award. However, Thierry Henry (twice), Franck Ribery and Antoine Griezmann (twice) all lost out after finishing in the top three nominations of the award this century.