Allan Simonsen – the only Dane to win the Ballon d’Or

Allan Simonsen was one of the most gifted players of his generation. The midfield maestro was an integral part of the successful Borussia Monchengladbach side of the 1970s, helping the Bundesliga club win three successive league titles, a German Cup and two UEFA Cups.

Simonsen began his football education with Vejle BK in his native Denmark before making a move to Germany in the summer of 1972. He initially struggled with conditions in a new country and found it hard to get into the Foals’ squad. However, he forced his way into the first team at the start of the 1974/75 season and went on to feature in all the league games for Borussia Monchengladbach.

His 34 league games yielded 18 goals and his superlative role as number 10 created numerous goalscoring opportunities for his team-mates as well as kept the opposition defence on the edge as to what the next move of the talented Dane would be.

He became the lynchpin of the side that had other talented players in former Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes, Rainer Bonhof and Berti Vogts amongst others. However, it were the surging runs of Simonsen and his ability to find team-mates in threatening positions that confounded the opposition and left them guessing.

It was mostly down to Simonsen’s inch-perfect passes that helped Heynckes score league-leading 27 goals and helped the club win the league title. The midfielder’s influence was even more pronounced in the UEFA Cup as his ten strikes in 12 games helped his side win the competition. Simonsen struck twice in the final in the 5-1 defeat of Dutch outfit FC Twente.

In the 1975/76 campaign, Simonsen finished as the club’s leading goalscorer with 16 goals and helped them successfully retain the title.

The Dane continued his heroics and helped Borussia Monchengladbach win a third successive title in 1977. The Foals narrowly edged out Schalke and Eintracht Braunschweig by just one point on their way to glory. They also reached the final of the European Cup against Liverpool, and Simonsen helped his side claw back into the game with a second half strike after they went into the break a goal down.

However, the Reds, who were European royalty in those days, came back strongly to eventually clinch the match 3-1. Simonsen’s performances through the year saw him win the 1977 Ballon d’Or after he narrowly edged out Kevin Keegan and Michel Platini. He still remains the only Dane to have won the coveted individual honour.

After completing seven years with the German outfit, Simonsen moved to Barcelona in the summer of 1979 and spent three successful seasons at the Camp Nou. However, the Spanish league in those days was dominated by Basque outfits, meaning Simonsen’s La Liga stint ended without a league title. Nevertheless, the Dane did win the 1982 Cup Winners’ Cup with the club.

He scored in the final as Barcelona registered a 2-1 win over Standard Liege to take the trophy home. Simonsen’s uncanny ability to raise his game in the biggest of games saw him become the only player to score in the European Cup, UEFA Cup, and Cup Winners’ Cup finals.

After his Barcelona stint, Simonsen had a solitary season with Charlton Athletic in England before he moved to Vejle where he ended his playing career.

Simonsen also won 55 caps for the Danish national team and helped them qualify for the 1984 European Cup.