Any stars of the World Cup in Russia that harbour hopes of scooping a prestigious Golden Ball-Ballon d’Or double in 2018 only need to look to history to realise the sheer difficulty involved in achieving such a feat.
Croatian talisman Luka Modric and France‘s teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe are currently the bookmakers’ favourites to be named as the tournament’s top performer as their two countries prepare to go head-to-head in Sunday’s final in Moscow.
You would think that impressing to such an extent on the biggest footballing stage of all would stand one in good stead when it came to winning the most reputable individual honour in the game.
Kylian Mbappe is among the leading contenders to win the Golden Ball at the 2018 World Cup
Luka Modric is also in contention as Croatia prepare to face France in Sunday’s final in Moscow
The former Juventus forward claimed both that and also the Golden Boot for top scorer in Spain after netting six times to fire Italy to a third title.
He then went on to receive France Football’s Ballon d’Or gong later that year – a remarkable achievement for a player who was a surprise inclusion in Enzo Bearzot’s Azzurri squad after lacking match fitness in the aftermath of a commuted two-year ban.
That accomplishment has not yet been replicated during eight subsequent World Cup years, although AS rightly point out that the Ballon d’Or was formerly called the European Player of the Year Award and only eligible to be won by Europeans between 1956-1994.
The field was widened to include any player plying their trade for a European club in 1995 before opening up to the entire world 12 years later.
Igor Belanov was awarded the 1986 iteration as Diego Maradona won that year’s Golden Ball, while Lothar Matthaus and Salvatore ‘Toto’ Schillaci split the honours four years later.
Paolo Rossi is the only player to win that award and the Ballon d’Or in the same year since 1982
Hristo Stoichkov took the 1994 Ballon d’Or after Romario starred at the World Cup in the United States and Zinedine Zidane was the recipient in 1998 after Ronaldo’s impressive exploits in France.
Ronaldo did claim a second Ballon d’Or in addition to winning the World Cup in 2002, but he was beaten to the Golden Ball in South Korea and Japan by Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.
Fabio Cannavaro did the same double in 2006, yet it was the retiring Zidane that was voted as player of the tournament despite his infamous ‘chest-butt’ on Marco Materazzi in Berlin.
Diego Forlan and Lionel Messi claimed each prize in 2010, while 2014 saw the latter take the World Cup Golden Ball as arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo won the third of five Ballon d’Ors.
This year, Champions League winner Modric has defied pre-World Cup controversy to remain the beating heart of a team that easily topped a difficult group before outlasting England in the semi-finals despite being taken to extra-time for the third successive match.
Cristiano Ronaldo – now of Juventus – won his fifth Ballon d’Or award at Real Madrid in 2017
Mbappe, meanwhile, has cemented his status as football’s next global star with a series of scintillating displays in Russia after sealing a domestic treble at Paris Saint-Germain.
French teammates N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann may still feel they are in contention for the Golden Ball ahead of the final at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard has also enjoyed a terrific campaign for Belgium and will contest the third-place play-off against England in St Petersburg on Saturday.
No player not named Messi or Ronaldo has won the Ballon d’Or since Kaka in 2007, though it remains to be seen if the respective last-16 exits of Portugal and Argentina from the World Cup could finally see that extraordinary run come to an end.
Author: Nancy Parker
Nancy Parker is a five time Emmy Award winning journalist and seven time Emmy nominee who has spent almost twenty five years covering news in South Louisiana. She has anchored every prime time newscast at WVUE FOX8 during her twenty year tenure in New Orleans.