English Players Who Have Won The Ballon d’Or

The Ballon d’Or (the Golden Ball) has been awarded since 1956 to the Best Player in the World. Originally it was only available to European players although that rule was changed in 1995. And in 2016, as we have seen, France Football, the Awarders, have since revised this list, giving the mighty Pele 7 Ballon d’or Awards and officially recognising him as the greatest player of all time.

But let’s stick with English players. Of course, the very first Ballon d’Or was awarded to England’s greatest ever player Sir Stanley Matthews.

Stanley Matthews – 1956

The Way It Was

Matthews was an incredible winger and with such longevity. His career was also a tragedy. If he had played in a different time – i.e. not one with a maximum wage for footballers, he would have won so much more. Plus he didn’t take part in early World Cups 1938 in particular as England didn’t even bother entering the tournament. He played in the 1950 World Cup which was a farce he missed the first game as he was playing an exhibition game in Canada only to play in the infamous 1950 World Cup game where England lost to the USA 1-0. This is not Bruce Arena’s team but a joke of a team which somehow managed to defeat the favorites for the tournament. He played also in 1954 but was wrongly left out of the 1958 World Cup.

I have read his autobiography and it is incredible. His private training in the times of barely any training of quality was legendary. He was the Jerry Rice of soccer – he trained every day on his own and was so good that after a while he didn’t need to train as much.

He was asked to join Arsenal but it didn’t make sense – he had to do a lot of other things besides football to make ends meet. A worthy winner of the Ballon d’Or but then you do have to question – he never won the Premier League (or Football League), he never played in the European Cup etc. So I have to agree with giving his award to Pele. And more likely if it was just European players, it should have gone to the runner-up – the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano. He lost to Matthews by 3 points.

Michael Owen – 2001

Michael Owen: Off The Record - My Autobiography

In 2001, Liverpool under Gerard Houllier achieved an incredible Cup success. The FA Cup, the League Cup, the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) and most importantly for Liverpool, finally qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in years.

Plus, Owen was on fire after his incredible 1998 World Cup performances made him famous around the world. His career crashed and burned after this period but he still did a lot. Again, slightly questionable award of the Ballon d’Or.

Kevin Keegan – twice 1978 and 1979

Kevin Keegan: An Intimate Portrait of Football's Last Romantic

A worthy winner. He won the European Cup with both Hamburg and Liverpool. He also was someone who transcended his perceived limitations. A disappointing England career with England not qualifying for the 1978 World Cup and Keegan not being fully fit for the 1982 World Cup means he did not win an international trophy. A stunning club career makes up for that at least a bit.

Unfortunately, Keegan lost his 1978 Ballon d’Or to the World Cup winning Argentinian Mario Kempes after the France Football review. So really he only has one Ballon d’Or, meaning every England winner only has one.

Bobby Charlton – 1966

1966: My World Cup Story

Charlton sneaked this award by being┬ájust 1 point ahead of Eusebio of Portugal to claim the Ballon d’Or. However, his performances in the 1966 World Cup cannot be ignored and he is surely one of England’s greatest ever players. The World Cup, the European Cup (aka Champion’s League), League Titles and so much more mean that he is a deserved winner of the Ballon d’Or.

This is the current list of English winners. The last winner was 16 years ago. There don’t seem to be any prospects on the horizon and Wayne Rooney hasn’t been deemed good enough to win one or even come close to winning.