Ballon d’Or: Why Pele Has Seven Awards, Same As Lionel Messi Despite Never Winning One

Ballon d’Or: Why Pele Has Seven Awards, Same As Lionel Messi Despite Never Winning One

Martin Moses
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
In this article:
Lionel Messi logo
Inter Miami CF logoFArgentina logo
  • Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, is regarded as one of the best football players in history
  • But despite all his achievements, Pele never won the famous Ballon d'Or title
  • Herein, Sports Brief explains why the late Brazilian had the same number of titles as Lionel Messi

Regardless of whether or not you were born in the same era as Pele, there is a good chance that you've heard of the great things the legendary Brazilian did.

Those who watched him, either live or via old video clips, attest to the fact that he is undoubtedly one of the best players of his generation or even in history.

Pele, Lionel Messi, Ballon d'Or
Brazilian soccer legend Pele (L) receives the Ballon d'Or Prix d'Honneur award from FIFA President Sepp Blatter (R) during the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2013 held at Kongresshaus Zurich in Zurich, Switzerland, 13 January 2014.
Source: Getty Images

The late forward achieved a lot of things in his illustrious career, including guiding the Samba Boys to three World Cups between 1958 and 1970.

But despite all the accolades in his cabinet, Pele never won the Ballon d'Or - an award set aside for the best player in the world for a particular season.

His inability to win an award was down to the fact that France Football only awarded the prize to European footballers before changing the rule in 1995 to accommodate everyone in the world.

George Weah became the first non-European winner after the rules were changed. It remains the only Ballon d'Or title an African player has ever won to date.

In 2016, France Football conducted what was dubbed an 'international re-evaluation' to determine who would have won the award in the years when it was still a European-only affair.

When did Pele 'win' the Ballon d'Or

The evaluation, as Essentially Sports reports, revealed that Pele would have been declared the winner on seven occasions, i.e., in 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, and 1970.

Had Pele been eligible, he would have had seven Ballon d'Or awards - a record Lionel Messi would have tied when he scooped the 2021 title.

Also locked out include Diego Maradona, who could have won the award twice, with the likes of Mario Kempes, Romario and Garrincha winning it once.

However, official records still show that the former Santos player, who passed on in December last year, did not win any awards. He did, however, receive an honorary title from former FIFA President Sepp Blatter in 2014.

Messi closes in on 8th Ballon d'Or

Be that as it may, Messi will have an opportunity to move clear of O Rei, both practically and what-would-have-been, when he faces Erling Haaland in this year's vote on October 30.

The Argentine's win at the Qatar 2022 World Cup has put him in good standing to walk away with the gong ahead of the treble-winning Manchester City striker.

How much money do Ballon d'Or winners get?

Sports Brief has also reported that the award is one of the few trophies that doesn't include a monetary value attached to it. In fact, there is no known prize from the French magazine for all the previous winners.

Just like half-time performers at the Super Bowl aren't paid in the same vein, the benefits that come with winning the Ballon d'Or are massive.

Martin Moses photo
Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)