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Since 1956, the French news magazine, France Football has been presenting an annual football award they call the Ballon d’Or.
The idea, which was conceived by sports writers Gabriel Hanot and Jacques Ferran, was to honour male players deemed to have performed the best over the previous year, based on voting by football journalists, before coaches and captains of national teams were also given the right to vote later.
How Many African Players Have Won The Ballon d’Or
African players became eligible for the Ballon d’Or in 1995, and to date, George Weah is the only African player to ever clinched the award in the very first year that the prize was opened to non-European players. You can have a look at the Ballon d’Or winners’ list.
Weah defeated Jurgen Klinsmann (who got second place) by 144 votes to 108. The African went ahead to pick up 13 votes the following year but wasn’t enough for him to win that year’s Ballon d’Or.
George Weah might have been the only African footballer to win the Ballon d’Or, but there are others who got nominated and voted for but were unable to win; let’s take a look at them.
African players that have received Ballon d’Or votes
Finidi George is one of the players Weah defeated in 1995. The Nigeria wideman was with Ajax when he got six votes and that was the only time his name was associated with Ballon d’Or.
Tony Yeboah was another player who received five votes in 1995 when the Ghana international played for Leeds United. Yeboah netted 24 goals in 40 league appearances in England, and twice, he was named Premier League Player of the Month in 1995.
By 1996, Nwankwo Kanu, who was teammate with Finidi at Ajax, received 14 votes in the Ballon d’Or voting ahead of the 1995 winner Weah. Kanu was also ahead of the likes of Gabriel Batistuta, Raul and Didier Deschamps, having scored 13 goals in 30 Eredivisie matches. Again in 1999, Kanu was given two further votes, putting him level with Ronaldo and Hernan Crespo.
Victor Ikpeba is another player from Africa who received two votes in the 1997 Ballon d’Or after winning Ligue one with Monaco and also winning the African Footballer of the Year award.
El-Hadji Diouf and Papa Bouba Diop of Senegal both received two votes in the Ballon d’Or following their performance at the Japan/South Korea 2002 FIFA World Cup, reaching the quarter-finals; the second African nation to do so after Cameroon in 1990.
One wonders how a Samuel Eto’o, the highest goal scorer in Africa and Cameroon’s all-time top goalscorer, never won a Ballon d’Or! However, he received votes in eight separate years and was nominated. He received no votes on two further occasions though.
Another unfortunate African football star when it comes to winning the Ballon d’Or is Didier Drogba. The Ivorian powerhouse received votes for the first time in 2004, and also matched Eto’o in receiving votes in eight years. Drogba’s Chelsea teammate Michael Essien also got votes in two separate years in 2005 and 2007.
Fredi Kanoute received his one and only Ballon d’Or nomination in 2007. The Mali international finished 11th on the ballot with a fraction of the votes of the eventual winner, Kaka.
Emmanuel Adebayor receive his one and only Ballon d’Or nomination in 2008. The Togo frontman scored 24 goals in 36 league appearances for Arsenal.
Yaya Toure was nominated for the Ballon d’Or on five occasions between 2009 and 2015. The Ivorian, while still at Barcelona, secured his only Champions League title and received his first Ballon d’Or nomination in 2009.
Asamoah Gyan was rewarded with Ballon d’Or votes for his unforgettable contribution in 2010 to Ghana’s World Cup campaign as the Black Stars reached the quarter-finals in South Africa.
Gabon international, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has featured in the Ballon d’Or rankings on three occasions, beginning in 2016, the same year he won the Bundesliga Player of the Year award.
Senegal superstar, Sadio Mane has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or on three occasions. While his former teammate at Liverpool, Mohamed Salah finished fifth in the Ballon d’Or rankings in 2018 and 2019. And like Mane, the Egyptian may yet have the chance.
Kalidou Koulibaly made the Ballon d’Or standings for the first and only time in 2019. The then Napoli centre-back, (now at Chelsea) became the first African defender ever to receive any Ballon d’Or votes.
This article was updated 3 months ago