Ballon d'Or

Ballon d'Or: The players you forgot won football's top individual honour

Few men have ever claimed this prize
Few men have ever claimed this prize / Kristy Sparow/GettyImages

Only 25 men have ever won a Ballon d'Or.

In the grand scheme of football, that's not really a lot of people. You'd think every fan would be able to recite them from memory as if their names were etched on a giant holy scroll.

Nope, all they got was a golden ball. What's the point?

Anyway, some winners of football's most prestigious individual prize can sometimes be lost to history, but we've got you covered. Here are the players that you may have forgotten won the Ballon d'Or.

Sir Stanley Matthews (1956)

So let's get this straight. England is credited with founding the professional game, pipes on about 'football coming home', idolises the 1966 World Cup-winning squad, but often overlooks that Sir Stanley Matthews was the very first winner of the Ballon d'Or?

Show him some respect.

Luis Suarez (1960)

Did you know that the Luis Suarez you definitely do know about was not the first Luis Suarez to succeed at Barcelona?

Luis Suárez Miramontes was nicknamed 'The Architect' because of his elegant playmaking, and played his part for two all-time sides: Spain's Euro '64 winning team, and Inter's back-to-back European Cup conquering outfit.

We're pretty sure this Suarez never bit anyone over the course of his career either. Definitely didn't bite someone on three separate occasions, anyway.

Josef Masopust (1962)

When thinking of Czechoslovakian legends prior to the country splitting into two, Josef Bican is usually the one who gets the attention - he did score 1,812 goals after all.

But namesake Masopust is often overlooked, despite being one of the finest midfielders of his generation and beating Portuguese legend Eusebio to the Ballon d'Or.

Florian Albert (1967)

Much like Masopust, Albert similarly is forgotten in history due to his nationality.

A Hungarian legend, Albert began emerging on the world scene just as Ferenc Puskas (who has won the Ballon d'Or a grand total of zero times, by the way) was entering his twilight years with Real Madrid. And also decided to play for Spain instead.

You'd think Albert - 'The Emperor' - would be the one with a stadium named after in Budapest then, but apparently not.

Oleg Blokhin (1975)

Before Andriy Shevchenko won the Ballon d'Or in 2004 (if you did not know that, feel free to add his name to your own personal list), there was a Dynamo Kyiv striker called Oleg Blokhin who was pretty good at scoring goals too.

The former USSR international grabbed more than 300 in his career, and while success with his national side eluded him, he swept up honours at club level and has a Ballon d'Or for his troubles, so it's not all bad.

Allan Simonsen (1977)

Allan Simonsen
Simonsen beat Kevin Keegan and Michel Platini to the prize / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

Congratulations to Denmark legend Allan Simonsen, who is the shortest winner of the Ballon d'Or (yup, shorter than even Lionel Messi) and the only recipient of it to ever play for Charlton Athletic.

Turned down Real Madrid to play at The Valley, too. I guess when you're a Ballon d'Or winner you can do what you want.

Igor Belanov (1986)

Turns out Ukraine has quite an underrated footballing history.

Like Blokhin and later Shevchenko, Igor Belanov made his name with Dynamo Kyiv, and was awarded with the Ballon d'Or after winning the Soviet League, Soviet Cup and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1986.

This also meant Gary Lineker had to settle for second place in the voting - could you imagine a world where he won the Ballon d'Or? Very strange.