Ballon d'Or: Players who have received the most nominations

  • The award is given out by France Football to the best male player each year
  • England's Stanley Matthews won the first gong in 1956
  • Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the award like no two other players

These two have been up for the Ballon d'Or a fair few times
These two have been up for the Ballon d'Or a fair few times / Philipp Schmidli/GettyImages

The Ballon d'Or remains football's most prestigious and elusive individual prize.

Just 26 footballers have ever taken home that shiny golden ball, and only ten players have won it more than once.

Winning the damn thing is obviously an amazing achievement, but it's an honour to even receive a nomination.

So which players have received the most nominations? Let's take a look...

15. Zinedine Zidane (8 nominations)

Zidane triumphed in 1998 / JACQUES DEMARTHON/GettyImages

There aren't many people who have graced this planet with the footballing elegance that Zinedine Zidane brought.

Fresh from leading France to their first World Cup triumph in 1998, Zidane became just the third Frenchman to win the Ballon d'Or after Raymond Kopa and Michel Platini.

14. Iker Casillas (8 nominations)

Iker Casillas
Only one goalkeeper has been nominated more often than Casillas / Jasper Juinen/GettyImages

In the 2000s, there was a consensus best goalkeeper in the world - and that was Gianluigi Buffon.

But Iker Casillas was right behind him and never had to play in the second tier of club football, so swings and roundabouts I guess.

13. Didier Drogba (8 nominations)

Didier Drogba
Drogba was a menace / Jamie McDonald/GettyImages

Wikipedia's way of displaying a player's stats has created a bit of revisionist history around Didier Drogba, who has now become so overrated that he's underrated again.

He was the most feared Chelsea player when they were dominant forces in England and Europe, the closest a Premier League side has looked to a Galacticos team.

Maybe you just had to be there...

12. Wayne Rooney (8 nominations)

Wayne Rooney
Out of context Wayne Rooney / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

While English people were busy debating over Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, the rest of the footballing world quickly recognised that the Three Lions' most talented player was Wayne Rooney.

Lionel Messi hailed the Man Utd legend as the greatest English player of his generation and his eight Ballon d'Or nominations certainly reflect that.

11. Samuel Eto'o (9 nominations)

Samuel Eto'o
Eto'o conquered Europe two seasons in a row / Giuseppe Bellini/GettyImages

Fun fact: Samuel Eto'o is the only player to win back-to-back trebles, and he did so with two different clubs.

Anyway, he also received nine Ballon d'Or nominations and Jose Mourinho is still sore that he didn't win it after his outstanding year with Inter in 2010.

10. Thierry Henry (9 nominations)

Thierry Henry
An iconic look / Ben Radford/GettyImages

How the Premier League's greatest ever player failed to win a Ballon d'Or is beyond us, but at least he received nine nominations. That means something right?


9. Neymar (9 nominations)

French Ligue 1"Paris Saint-Germain v Olympique Lyon"
Neymar was tipped to win the Ballon d'Or as a teenager / ANP Sport/GettyImages

Sneaking his way onto the 2021 shortlist and therefore another spot higher in this ranking is Neymar.

The Brazilian superstar may not have lived up to the billing as a potential successor to Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but at least he was one of the defining figures of the 2010s, as demonstrated by his nine nominations.

8. Gianluigi Buffon (11 nominations)

Gianluigi Buffon
Buffon has had a glittering career / Power Sport Images/GettyImages

It's only fitting that the greatest goalkeeper of all time has had the most Ballon d'Or nominations of any shot stopper.

If the Yachine Trophy was retrospectively awarded, Buffon would probably sweep that up as well.

7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (11 nominations)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Ibrahimovic was a dominant force in several countries / Xavier Laine/GettyImages

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's insane longevity rivals that of Messi and Ronaldo, and in another era he would have had a great shot of winning at least one Ballon d'Or.

Unfortunately for him, he played in an era with two freaks of nature and missed out on the greatest individual honour of all.

6. Karim Benzema (12 nominations)

Karim Benzema
Benzema's back, baby / Catherine Steenkeste/GettyImages

It seemed like Karim Benzema was going to be remembered most for being the perfect strike parter for Ronaldo, but he peaked once again as a forward in his own right and won the 2021 Ballon d'Or.

5. Franz Beckenbauer (12 nominations)

Franz Beckenbauer
As you could probably guess, Beckenbauer doesn't play anymore / Boris Streubel/GettyImages

Imagine having a nickname as cool as 'Der Kaiser'. Imagine being nominated for 12 Ballons d'Or and winning two of them. Imagine winning the World Cup as a captain and again as a manager.

Franz Beckenbauer is in a league of his own.

4. Johan Cruyff (12 nominations)

 - Barcelona
Cruyff at the peak of his powers / VI-Images/GettyImages

Taking into account tactics, iconic moments, iconic teams, trophies, and just general aura, Johan Cruyff might be the most influential figure in the history of football.

When France Football asked their former winners to name their player of the century, he ranked third behind only Pele and Diego Maradona.

3. Paolo Maldini (13 nominations)

Paolo Maldini
Yes, Paolo, *you*! / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

Sure, those stats you see flying around about Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi conceding 2 goals in 104 games are fake, but that's testament to how f***ing good they were at their jobs.

Maldini in particular was a top-class defensive force for the best part of two decades - two decades!

2. Lionel Messi (16 nominations)

Lionel Messi
Got enough there, Leo? / Kristy Sparow/GettyImages

By virtue of breaking into the Barcelona starting XI a few years after a certain Portuguese forward had already done so at Man Utd, Lionel Messi ranks second on this list.

Given that he's won the most Ballons d'Or in history, we're sure he's not too bothered by that, however...

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (18 nominations)

Cristiano Ronaldo
Just the five times that Ronaldo has won the Ballon d'Or / Power Sport Images/GettyImages

Ronaldo had his 19-year streak of consecutive Ballon d'Or nominations ended in 2023, the first calendar year of his professional career that he spent outside of Europe following his move to Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr.

The first time Ronaldo was nominated for the award came all the way back in 2004 - that year the Portuguese forward shared the longlist with Zinedine Zidane and Andrea Pirlo, two of his future managers.