The Ballon d’Or is still football’s most prestigious and elusive individual award.
Only 25 football players have ever taken home the shiny gold ball, and only ten players have won it more than once.
Winning the damn thing is obviously a fantastic achievement, but it’s an honor to even get a nomination.
So which players have received the most nominations? Let’s take a look …
Zidane Triumphant 1998 / JACQUES DEMARTHON / GettyImages
There are not many people who have adorned this planet with the football elegance that Zinedine Zidane brought with her.
New from leading France to his first World Cup triumph in 1998, Zidane became only the third Frenchman to win the Ballon d’Or after Raymond Kopa and Michel Platini.
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 class of club football, so I guess swings and discs.
Drogba was a threat / Jamie McDonald / GettyImages
Wikipedia’s way of showing a player’s statistics has created a bit of a revisionist story around Didier Drogba, who has now become so overrated that he is underestimated again.
He was the most feared Chelsea player when they were dominant forces in England and Europe, the closest a team in the Premier League has seen a Galacticos team.
You may just have to be there …
Out of context Wayne Rooney / Etsuo Hara / GettyImages
While the English were busy discussing Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, the rest of the football world quickly realized 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 truly reflect that.
Eto’o conquered Europe two seasons in a row / Giuseppe Bellini / GettyImages
Fun facts: Samuel Eto’o is the only player to have won back-to-back trebles, and he did so with two different clubs.
Anyway, he also got nine Ballon d’Or nominations and Jose Mourinho is still sad that he did not win it after his outstanding year with Inter 2010.
An Iconic Look / Ben Radford / GettyImages
How the Premier League’s greatest player ever failed to win a Ballon d’Or is beyond us, but he received at least nine nominations. That means something, doesn’t it?
Neymar was tipped to win the Ballon d’Or as a teenager / ANP Sport / GettyImages
Neymar sneaks into the 2021 shortlist and therefore another place higher in this ranking.
The Brazilian superstar may not have lived up to the bill as a potential successor to Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but he was at least one of the crucial figures of the 2010s, as evidenced by his nine nominations.
Benzema’s back, baby / Catherine Steenkeste / GettyImages
It seemed that Karim Benzema would be most remembered for being the perfect attacking partner for Ronaldo, but he tops again as a forward in his own right and has a solid fall to actually win the Ballon d’Or 2021.
He will not actually win it, but still …
Buffon has had a glittering career / Power Sport Images / GettyImages
It is 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 is awarded in retrospect, Buffon would probably sweep it up as well.
Ibrahimovic was a dominant force in several countries / Xavier Laine / GettyImages
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s insane lifespan competes with Messi and Ronaldo, and in another era he would have had a fantastic chance to win at least one Ballon d’Or.
Unfortunately for him, he played in an era with two nature lovers and lost the greatest individual honor of all.
As you could probably guess, Beckenbauer no longer plays / Boris Streubel / GettyImages
Imagine having a nickname that’s as cool as “Der Kaiser”. Imagine being nominated for 12 Ballons d’Or and winning two of them. Imagine winning the World Cup as captain and again as manager.
Franz Beckenbauer is in his own league.
Cruyff on top of his powers / VI-Images / GettyImages
In terms of tactics, iconic moments, iconic teams, trophies and just a general aura, Johan Cruyff can be the most influential figure in the history of football.
When France Football asked their previous winners to name their players of the century, he was ranked third behind only Pele and Diego Maradona.
Yes, Paolo, * you *! / Alessandro Sabattini / GettyImages
Sure, the statistics you see flying around about Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi scoring 2 goals in 104 games is false, but it’s proof of how damn good they were at their jobs.
Maldini in particular was a top-class defense force for the best part of two decades – two decades!
Are you probably there, Leo? / Kristy Sparow / GettyImages
By virtue of breaking into Barcelona’s start 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 has won the most Ballons d’Or in history, we are sure that he is not too bothered by it …
Only the five times Ronaldo has won the Ballon d’Or / Power Sport Images / GettyImages
There is every chance that Ronaldo will retire with at least 20 nominations.
That would mean that for two decades he was one of the 30 best players in the world.