The Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious individual award in football. It was started in 1956, initially for only the European players, before it was expanded to all players at European clubs in 1995 and then to every player worldwide in 2007.
Yet only 38 players in history have won the prestigious award. They include several bonafide legends of the game, who put up superb individual performances to help their sides to numerous titles.
On that note, here’s a look at the five clubs to have produced the most Ballon d’Or winners:
#5 Bayern Munich – 5
The only German club on the list, Bayern Munich have produced three Ballon d’Or winners – Gerd Muller, Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
Der Bomber was the first winner of the Ballon d’Or award, which he won in 1970, with Beckenbauer joining him in 1972; the latter also won another one in 1976.
Rummenigge, who last month stepped down as the club’s CEO after 19 years in charge, is the only Bavarian star to have won the award in back-to-back years, doing so in 1981 and 1982.
Bayern Munich could’ve had one more – Robert Lewandowski – but that was not to be after the Ballon d’Or award for 2020 got cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Polish ace was the best player in the year by a mile and played a key role in helping Bayern win their second continental treble. He’s also in the reckoning for the award this year too.
Five other Bayern Munich players have reached the top three in the race for the Ballon d’Or award, including Olivier Kahn, Franck Ribery and Manuel Neuer.
#4 Juventus – 8
Juventus, the most successful Italian club team in history, have had six players winning eight Ballon d’Or awards, most of them coming in the 1980s.
Paolo Rossi was the first Juventus player to win the Ballon d’Or award in 1982 before Michel Platini set a record with three consecutive wins (from 1983 to 1985); the Frenchman’s feat was later surpassed by Lionel Messi, who won four in a row more than two decades later.
In the next decade, Roberto Baggio and Zinedine Zidane won the Ballon d’Or award. In the latter’s case, it was mainly due to his performances in France’s triumphant 1998 FIFA World Cup campaign.
Pavel Nedved (2003) is the only Juventus player to have won the award in the 21st century.
The Bianconeri currently have the second-most successful Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo (5) in their ranks. But their poor performances in Europe and declining league results have severely hampered Ronaldo’s chances of winning another Ballon d’Or award.
#3 AC Milan – 8
AC Milan were once a force to be reckoned with in Europe, and the fact that players from the club have won eight Ballon d’Or award winners is a testament to the same.
Gianni Rivera was the first Milan player to win the Ballon d’Or award, which he won in 1969. Ruud Gullit (1987) was the next Milan player to land the prestigious award before his teammate Marco van Basten won the next two.
Van Basten won his third Ballon d’Or award in 1992 before George Weah followed suit three years later. Weah created history by becoming the first non-European player to land the award; he won it despite the Rossoneri losing in the final of the Champions League that year.
Andriy Shevchenko, after two unsuccessful nominations, landed his first Ballon d’Or award in 2004 before Kaka, another club legend, claimed the award in 2007.
In fact, no Milan player has made the top three nominations for the Ballon d’Or award since then. But after a runner-up finish in the Serie A last season, things could be looking for the club.
#2 Real Madrid – 11
Many Ballon d’Or award winners have graced the fabled white colours of Real Madrid. But only seven have won the award while playing for the club, starting with Ferenc Puskas in 1957.
It was only the second Ballon d’Or award ever awarded, with the Hungarian making up for his second-place finish to Blackpool’s Stanley Matthews the year before.
For the next two years, the award was won by Madrid players, with Raymond Kopa laying his hands on the coveted award before Puskas reclaimed it in 1959.
The club had to wait until the turn of the 21st century for the Ballon d’Or award to return to the Santiago Bernabeu again. That happened when Luis Figo won the award in 2000, with Ronaldo Nazario, Fabio Cannavaro, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric later claiming it too.
In fact, Cristiano Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, has won the award four times as a Real Madrid player.
#1 Barcelona – 12
Six Barcelona players have combined to win 12 Ballon d’Or awards while playing for the club, with one of them accounting for half of the tally.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona’s most iconic player, won a record sixth Ballon d’Or award in 2019. After his heroics in Argentina’s Copa America 2021 triumph, he is widely tipped to land another this year.
The first Barcelona player to win the Ballon d’Or award was Luis Suarez in 1960, who beat Ferenc Puskas and Uwe Seeler, before Johan Cryuff followed suit three years later with back-to-back wins.
In the 1990s, Bulgarian legend Hristo Stoichkov and his Brazilian counterpart Rivaldo both won one Ballon d’Or award apiece, while another Brazilian, Ronaldinho, collected the prestigious honour in 2006.
It’s a testament to the club’s ability to churn out world-beaters, and it looks like they’re set to keep first place in this category for a while.