A Golden Ball per decade: the most influential winners

That is, there is the impact of unique football figures imprinted on the world of football, on the way of considering it, of playing it and even of telling it: the Golden Ball not only as a prize for talent but as, over time, as a stamp of an imprint indelible on that multifaceted universe called football.

So let’s see, through the decades, which ones can be identified as i winners of the most iconic and representative Ballon d’Or of their football era.


A footballer with an unrivaled impact who has marked the history of a club with a unique prestige like the Real Madrid: 396 appearances and 308 goals for the Blancos, a perfect synthesis of class, technique and speed that led the player from Buenos Aires to win the Ballon d’Or twice (1957 and 1959) and to arrive on the podium in the first absolute edition of recognition.

An iconic champion both in terms of what he has given in the field, as a driver as well as a man of class, but also for his human profile, driven by inexhaustible ambition and by the immense thirst for success (and due recognition) also shown by the various choices made for pursue career.

An iconic and influential star player also for his ability to not only embody the best of a single role but to excel in every technical gesture, in multiple areas of the field, becoming not the instrument of an orchestra but the orchestra itself: ingredients that, without other, they have left an indelible and partly unrepeatable mark.

George Best

A different winner for each year, ten different ways of understanding football and turning out to be great, leaving their mark. Therefore, no multiple winner and no encore but, in fact, the unattainable role of George Best as a symbol of an era (football and beyond) as well as a champion iconic par excellence, unattainable even thinking of those who came in the following decades.

The very fact that even today, together with the dribbles and the plays, quotes and anecdotes from his life are remembered makes clear the mark left by Best, an all-round impact and not just on the pitch. Simply remaining on the pitch we are talking about one of the best dribbling specialists ever, a champion able to entertain and surprise, to bring inspiration and imagination to the highest levels.

Johan Cruijff

A simple fact would be enough to justify the choice: he was the first player to win three Ballon d’Ors (1971, 1973, 1974). But we cannot stop at the simple and mere numerical data, just as we cannot do it thinking exclusively of the trophies won with Ajax and more than 400 career goals.

In fact, it becomes urgent and obligatory to underline how much Cruyff has been able to influence and to address, like no one, the way of understanding football and to live it, as a footballer. Coach on the pitch, head as well as foot, more than ever effective synthesis of technique, athletic qualities and, above all, intelligence at the service of the team: an orchestra conductor who has become an expression and symbol of “total football”.


Le Roi won the Ballon d’Or from 1982 to 1985, always as a player of the Juventus, and with the bianconeri he achieved success in the league, in the Cup Winners’ Cup and in the Champions Cup in those same years. Moreover, he proved to be the absolute protagonist of the 1984 European Championships won with France, even in that juncture he represented the most decisive player of the team (9 goals in the competition) just as it happened in Juventus.

An attacking midfielder with an excellent class, with few equals on set pieces thanks to the brushstrokes that have made school, all seasoned with vision of the game, inspiration and impressive numbers even thinking about the goals scored (104 in his life in black and white).

It is not a question here, as in the case of Cruyff, of an element capable of conditioning the development of football, the way of understanding it in a global sense, but certainly of one of the best interpreters ever in terms of class and aesthetics.

Ronaldo Nazario - Soccer Player

We are talking about the rest of elements of the caliber of Van Basten, Baggio and Weah but, at the same time, between 1995 and 2000 Europe faced a cyclone called Luis Nazario de Lima Ronaldo, able to finish second in the 1996 Ballon d’Or and to win it in 1997, at just 21 years of age.

Between 1996 and 1998 he lived his period of grace, with the jerseys of Inter e Barcelona: Cannavaro explained how the Phenomenon represented, for that generation, something similar to Pele and Maradona for previous generations, a sort of alien who came down to earth to humiliate entire defenses, to get drunk with his dribbles and his feints.

In some ways a forerunner of champion in the modern sense, also thinking of the rich sponsorships and the popularity achieved as a “brand” as well as as a champion: an understatement, of course, to simply associate him with the 90s, considering what he then achieved with Real from 2002 to 2006.


Different players both in terms of role and impact on football in an absolute sense: probably even someone like Zidane would have deserved the title of the most influential element of the decade in question but in 2000 he came behind Figo, so we need to look elsewhere.

Specifically, thinking of champions who have become icons and experienced as such already when they were in business, it can only stand out Ronaldinho. After all, it is evident that the football parable of the Brazilian tightrope walker took place mostly in the period 2000-2010, with the passage to Europe thanks to the PSG and the magical seasons between Barcelona e Milan before returning to Brazil.

A precocious talent and already winning at a young age (a World Cup won at 22), capable of embodying the essence of a way of living football: creativity, ease of dribbling, parables that leave you speechless, all with a playful attitude, a smile that says it all.

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel M

Messi became the best scorer in La Liga history, the most successful player in the history of Barcelona and, in absolute terms, he managed to fit fully into the Olympus of football, among the greats of all time.

Between 2009 and 2012 the Ballon d’Or has always been his, four consecutive editions, to then add the statements of 2015 and 2019, with the addition of second place in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.

The number of Golden Balls won can only demonstrate how the 2010-2020 period was that of absolute consecration.

We can and must obviously underline how, alongside the myth of Messi, a war machine of the caliber of Cristiano Ronaldo: also CR7, like the Argentine, has been able and knows how to be influential and iconic, offering us a different idea of ​​a champion, of talent cultivated over time and with obsessive professionalism, even beyond the innate class, as a “gift”.

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