One of the most celebrated individual awards in the world of football, the FIFA Ballon d’Or, attracts a lot of eyeballs and the winners of this prestigious award become talking points in world football. While the brilliance of the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, Kaka, Ronaldinho may take your sleep away, there are a few previous winners whom you may not recognize at once. Here is a list of 5 Ballon d’Or winners you probably haven’t heard of –
1. Omar Sívori
This Italian Argentine striker was a crucial part of the highly successful Juventus side in the late 50s and early 60s. The former Riverplate man won Ballon d’Or in 1961 when he scored 28 goals for Juventus in 29 appearences eventually resulting in Juventus’ 12th Serie A title. Sivori, primarily left footed, was often termed as “Maradona of the sixties” due to his playing style and rebellious nature. After leading Juventus form 1961 to 1965 he was transferred to Napoli and finally retired from international football in 1969, having a total of 208 goals in 380 games to his name. Afterwards, he went on to manage several teams in Argentina including the national side and helped them qualify for the 1974 FIFA World Cup.
Interesting trivia : Sivori played himself in two movies “Idoli controluce “(1965) and “Presidente del Borgorosso Football Club, II “ (1970)
2. Giovanni “Gianni” Rivera
The former Italian playmaker was known for his passing , dribbling and vision and is often dubed as “golden boy” of Italy. He joined AC Milan in 1960 at a mere age of 17 from Alessandria at an record transfer fee of $200,000. In 1962 he won Serie A with AC Milan qualifying for the European Cup and eventually went on to lift the cup in 1963,a year where he was Ballon d’Or runner up second only to legendary goalkeeper Lev Yashin. 6 years later in 1969 another European title with AC Milan finally won him his golden ball. A dazzling midfielder who was part of the Euroepan championship winning(1968) and World Cup runner up (1970) azzuri side retired from football in 1979 wih 170 club goals and 15 national team goals under his belt .
Interesting trivia : After leaving football he joined politics and is currently a Member of the European Parliament for the Uniti nell’Ulivo party.
Known as one of the most elegant players to touch the field, this former Hunagarian international spent his entire club career with Ferencvárosi TC form 1952 to 1974. Winner of the ‘Golden Boot’ award in the 1962 FIFA WC ,Albert had his share of silverware with the Hungarian League in 1962, 1963, 1967 and 1968 along with the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1965 to name a few. In 1967 already having won the Hungarian championship and Hungarian player of the year he had his first touch on the Ballon d’Or after netting the ball 28 times in 27 games that season. With a goal count of 255 in 351 games at club level and 31 goals in 75 games he finally hung the boots in 1974.
Interesting trivia : The stadium of Ferencvárosi TC was renamed to Albert-stadium in his honor in 2007.
Igor is a former Ukranian attacking midfielder .Starting his professional career as a teenager in SK Odessa in 1979 he got himself recognised when he joined the national giants Dynamo Kyiv in 1985, winning major titles like UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup(1985–86), Soviet League(1985, 1986), Soviet Cup(1985, 1987). After a successful run at the 1986 FIFA World Cup, with 4 goals and 6 assists he defeated the likes of Gary Lineker and Emilio Butragueño to claim the Ballon d’Or. In 1988 he helped USSR to reach the final of UEFA European Football Championship followed by a less successful spell in Germany . He retired from football in 1997 with a tally of 131 club goals (465 appearences) and 8 international goals (33 appearences). Interesting trivia : He played himself in the TV movie Finale van het E.K. ’88 (1988).
5 . Allan Simonsen
First Danish footballer to win the Ballon d’Or , this prolific attacker started his carrer with Vejle BK(VB) in 1971, before moving to Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1972. Where he won the Bundesliga three times in a row from 1975 to 1977. 1977 was also the year when Borussia Mönchengladbach became runner-up in European Cup losing to Liverpool in the final . Simonsen however managed to score a remarkable goal in the final along with his 12 Bundesliga goals that season , He was subsequently awarded the Ballon d’Or in 1977. The Danish legend moved to Barcelona in 1979 and continued to score on regular basis until 1982 when he moved to Charlton Athletic and eventually came back to Denmark before retiring in 1989. He scored 186 club goals ( in 458 matches) and 20 international goals (in 55 matches) and was voted into the Danish Footballer Hall of Fame in 2008.
Interesting trivia : Simonsen is the only footballer to have scored in the European Cup, UEFA Cup, and Cup Winners’ Cup finals