Every year, the Ballon d'Or is awarded to the best player in the world. Unfortunately, it does not always go to the player who is most worthy. As history has proven, strikers have a better chance of winning the coveted award than defenders. Not only has the award favored more aggressive players, but it also favors men from specific teams. There have been several players deserving of the prize over the last three decades who never won it. Here, we honor the top five players who deserved to win but never did.
1) Paolo Maldini
Paolo Maldini is regarded as one of football's finest defenders. He played for A.C. Milan for his entire 25-year career, until he was 40 years old. He won every trophy possible at club level and the FIFA World Cup.
His electrifying pace, ability to execute precision tackles, game reading, and great leadership on and off the field were his primary qualities as a player. Maldini was at the pinnacle of his game in 1994. Surprisingly, he continued to play until 2009.
In 1993–94, the defender won Serie A and the Champions League with AC Milan. He was also a member of Italy's World Cup-winning team in 1994. However, he came in third place in the 1994 Ballon d'Or voting because he did not score goals. Despite this, Maldini was the better pick as AC Milan's backbone, having won Serie A and the Champions League.
2) Thierry Henry
In the early 2000s, Thierry Henry was one of the most feared strikers in Europe. The striker went down as one of the most exciting players in Premier League history, scoring goals for both his country and Arsenal. Henry was a joy to watch with his assortment of skills, a superb combination of power and quickness.
Despite his football achievements, which included 30 goals in Arsenal's undefeated title-winning season and two European golden boots, Thierry Henry, who finished second in 2003 and third in 2006, was never able to win the Ballon d'Or during his incredible career.
3) Xavier Hernandez
Xavi is largely recognized as one of the best midfielders to ever play the game. Despite his small stature, Xavi made up for it with unrivaled field vision and the ability to produce quick, precise passes. Xavi was instrumental in Spain's 2008 Euros and their first-ever World Cup victory in 2010, as well as their 2012 European championship victory. At club level, Xavi won every trophy there was.
Despite his football achievements at club and national level, Xavi could only manage three straight third-place Ballon d’Or finishes between 2008 and 2010. Xavi had the misfortune of being a part of a team that included Messi. It is the fault of the Argentine that Xavi has never won the Ballon d'Or, despite the fact that the midfielder should have won it at least once. Between 2009 and 2011, Xavi finished third three times in a row. You can argue about which year he should have won it, but 2010 is the most likely candidate.
4) Andes Iniesta
Andrés Iniesta is one of the most talented players to emerge from the Barcelona academy. Many consider him to be the best midfielder of the 21st century. His goal in the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa gave Spain its first ever World Cup title. Xavi, Messi, and Iniesta revolutionized football between 2005 and 2015.
Andres Iniesta was beaten into second place in the Ballon d'Or voting by Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi in 2010, and then finished third behind Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo two years later. Despite not winning the coveted award, many football fans still think he should have won at least once.
5) Gianluigi Buffon
Buffon is one of the all-time best goalkeepers. He won Serie A titles with Juventus and led the Italian national team to the 2006 World Cup triumph. Despite his brilliant performances with the national team and Juventus, Buffon never won the Ballon d’Or. He was beaten into second place by his captain and central-defensive lynchpin, Fabio Cannavaro. He didn’t win because he was a goal keeper.
Ballon d’Or choices continue to be controversial each and every year, and something needs to be done about the voting process. Lots of players deserved to win the award at least once.