The Soviet goalkeeper remains the only custodian to have won the Ballon d’Or. He earned the nickname of Black Panther for his quick reflexes and reach. Yashin was a member of the inaugural European Championship winning Soviet Union side.
The man credited with the invention of the libero position was the first ever defender to win the Ballon d’Or. Known for his pin-point positioning, reading of the game and accurate distribution, Beckenbauer won all there was to win at the club as well as the international level.
He led Borussia Dortmund to their first and thus far only Champions League triumph in 1997. The combative defender went on to win 23 caps for the East Germany national team and 51 for West Germany, helping the latter to the 1996 European Championship triumph.
The Italian defender was superlative during Italy’s 2006 World Cup triumph and had a legendary career with Juventus before moving to Real Madrid following the World Cup win.
The German was a defensive midfielder par excellence. He led the Germany national team to World Cup triumph in 1990. Diego Maradona called him the greatest opponent he had faced.
The Frenchman was blessed with quick feet and an ability to do whatever he wanted to do with the ball. His peak coincided with the greatest era of French football as he helped them to their first ever World Cup win in 1998 as well as the European Championship in 2000.
The Brazilian always played with a smile on his face. He was blessed with unique gifts and the fans were never disappointed with Ronaldinho in full flow. His arrival at Barcelona coincided with the club’s renaissance and the Catalans have just continued on an upward trajectory since.
The legendary Dutchman has left an indelible mark on the beautiful game, first as a player and later as a manager and a senior figure at both Ajax and Barcelona. His club career was full of successes, but his biggest contribution to the game will always be the style of football that he preached.
Alfredo de Stefano
The legendary Argentine’s arrival at Real Madrid coincided with the period of greatest success for the Spanish outfit. It was largely his game that helped Los Blancos to five successive European Cup titles in the tournament’s early days.
The Barcelona stalwart has gone on to win the Ballon d’Or a record five times – more than any other player in history. His contributions to the current status of Barcelona cannot be overstated. Messi’s ability to lead the line as well as drop down and help in build-up means he can fit effortlessly into any eleven.
The Portuguese has returned outlandish goalscoring numbers since his transfer to Real Madrid from Manchester United in 2009. He has gone on to become Los Blancos’ top goalscorer in just over six seasons. Renowned for his fearless running, he has now become a goal machine par excellence.