10 Greatest Footballers Who Never Won Ballon d’Or Including Henry, Ibrahimovic

10 Greatest Footballers Who Never Won Ballon d’Or Including Henry, Ibrahimovic

Byron Pillay
updated at July 18, 2023 at 7:13 AM
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  • Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have won 14 of the last 15 Ballon d'Or awards between them
  • Thierry Henry is arguably one of the greatest to play in the Premier League but never won the award
  • Only one goalkeeper and one defender have ever won a Ballon d'Or prize over the past two decades

Winning the Ballon d'Or is likely the goal of any professional footballer - a testament to their success at the highest levels of men's and women's footie each year.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the recent awards, winning 14 of the last 15 years. Their dominance means many big-name stars were never considered the best in the world.

Zlatan Ibrahimović, Thierry Henry, Neymar, Top 10, Greatest Players, Win, Coveted, Ballon d’Or, Awards, World Football, Sport
Zlatan Ibrahimović, Neymar and Thierry Henry are just three of the biggest stars who have never won the Ballon d’Or. Image: Marco Luzzani/ Daniel Apuy/ Stuart MacFarlane.
Source: Getty Images

Sports Brief looks at 10 of the best footballers never to win the Ballon d’Or award.

Zlatan Ibrahimović

When you think of Ibrahimovic, you think of an insanely talented footballer. For over a decade, the Swedish striker has been a force to be reckoned with and has produced incredible feats of skill on the field of play.

He’s also bagged numerous trophies no matter where he has played.

Sadly for Ibra, he has never appeared in a UEFA Champions League final - a major factor that’s counted against him over the years. He played for some of the biggest teams in world football until his retirement in 2023.

Thierry Henry

The Arsenal and France great is one of the best players the Premier League has ever seen. He was near-unstoppable in his day and should have had numerous Ballon d’Or titles to his name.

Henry played 376 games for the Gunners and scored 228 goals during that time. During his legendary career, he also played for Barcelona, Juventus, AS Monaco, and New York Red Bulls.

Neymar Junior

It’s crazy to think that a player as talented as Neymar has never won the Ballon d’Or. The Brazilian star has had his fair share of critics over the years but remains a deadly attacker who can rip apart any defence.

He is just three goals short of equalling Pele's goal record for Brazil and is racking up goals for his club side, Paris Saint-Germain. He scored 105 goals for Barcelona and added another 112 goals for PSG.

Xavi and Andres Iniesta

The Spanish duo are grouped together simply because they were a dominant partnership for both Spain and Barcelona. Many believe they are the actual reason Messi won so many titles, simply because the duo made him look so good during Barca’s glory days.

Xavi played 767 games for La Blaugrana and is now the club’s coach. Iniesta played 674 games for Barca and is still playing professional football in Japan. Both players have a World Cup title to their names.

Zlatan Ibrahimović, Thierry Henry, Neymar, Top 10, Greatest Players, Win, Coveted, Ballon d’Or, Awards, World Football, Sport, Luis Suárez, Andres Iniesta, Xavi
Luis Suárez, Andres Iniesta and Xavi. Image: Matthias Hangst/ Alex Caparros/ Denis Doyle.
Source: Getty Images

Luis Suárez

El Pistolero’s performances for Liverpool were arguably enough to win him the award. Suárez was in devastating form in England before he opted to move to Barcelona.

Playing alongside Messi ruined his chances of winning the award, but the Uruguayan proved himself as good as his Argentinian counterpart.

Suárez has also proven to be consistent - no matter where he’s played. At Barca, he played 283 games and scored 195 goals; at Ajax Amsterdam, he played 111 games and scored 69 goals; at Liverpool, he played 133 games and scored 82 goals.

Gianluigi Buffon

Winning the Ballon D’or as a goalkeeper is a very difficult thing to do. In the tournament’s storied history, only one keeper has ever won the award.

As reported by 90Min, Lev Yashin made history when he became the first keeper to win the award in 1963.

Italian shot-stopper, Buffon, is arguably the greatest keeper never to replicate the feat. He played 685 games for Juventus and kept 322 clean sheets. He also made 176 appearances for the Italian national team.

Paolo Maldini

Much like goalkeepers, defenders have a hard time winning the award. Only one defender, Fabio Cannavaro, has won the award in the past two decades.

Maldini, who is arguably the greatest defender to have played the game, is a legend at AC Milan. He played 901 games for the Rossoneri and only ever played for the Italian side, plus his country.

Zlatan Ibrahimović, Thierry Henry, Neymar, Top 10, Greatest Players, Win, Coveted, Ballon d’Or, Awards, World Football, Sport, Luis Suárez, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Andrea Pirlo, Sergio Ramos, Paolo Maldini, Gianluigi Buffon
Andrea Pirlo, Sergio Ramos, Paolo Maldini and Gianluigi Buffon. Image: Alessandro Sabattini/ Angel Martinez/ Adam Davy/ Chris Brunskill.
Source: Getty Images

Sergio Ramos

Ramos often makes headlines for his no-nonsense approach on the field, but his talent can’t be ignored.

The former Real Madrid defender played 671 games for Los Blancos. He also scored 101 goals for the side, proving that he knew equally how to stop goals and score them.

Ramos also was a big part of the Spanish national team, proving his talent wasn’t just limited to club football.

Andrea Pirlo

Pirlo wasn’t as flashy as some of the other stars on this list, but he was a true workhorse. The Italian playmaker has inspired many of the current crop of footballers, proving just what an exceptional talent he was.

The Italian legend made over 400 appearances for AC Milan and also notched up 164 games at Juventus, just two of the side where he showcased his worth. As noted by Transfermarkt, he won the Footballer of the Year award three years in a row but never the Ballon d'Or.

Details of 2023 Ballon d'Or

Sports Brief also reported on the schedule of the 2023 Ballon d'Or awards, including the date, time, format, and where to watch the prestigious gala event.

The 2023 Ballon d’Or, organised by France Football annually, remains the most anticipated event for footballers after the FIFA World Cup staged last year.

Byron Pillay photo
Byron Pillay
Byron Pillay is a sports writer and Head of the Department at Sports Brief (joined in 2022) with over 10 years of experience in community journalism and a degree in journalism from Caxton's Cadet School.