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Top 5 most controversial Ballon d’Or winners

Ballon d'Or
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Ahead of Monday’s big Ballon d’Or announcement, it’s time to check out the top 5 most controversial recipients of the award.

France Football hands out the Ballon d’Or each year to the most impressive player over the past 12 months. It’s seen many greats take home this prestigious award in their respective careers.

The most renowned recipients, of course, are five-time winners Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The likes of Alfredo Di Stefano, Lev Yashin, George Best, Eusebio, Gerd Muller, Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, Marco van Basten, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho have all won it as well.

Although there have been cases where people have questioned France Football’s decisions in the past.

Therefore, we’ll look at the top 5 most questionable Ballon d’Or winners.

Matthias Sammer (1996)

Matthias Sammer
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Sammer was probably just as surprised as everybody else when France Football crowned him the Ballon d’Or winner in 1996.

The defensive midfielder had a good campaign for both Germany and Borussia Dortmund. A Euro 1996 title in England came first with the national team before helped BVB win the Champions League.

Therefore, Sammer beat the upcoming Ronaldo Nazario to the big award by just a single point.

But the outcome left fans fuming, with many arguing Ronaldo was a more deserving victor following his breakthrough performances at Barcelona.

Andriy Shevchenko (2004)

andriy schevchenko, Ac milan
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True, the Ukrainian striker was a monster inside the box for AC Milan.

But Shevchenko’s victory in 2004 was a bit of a controversial one given that his performances weren’t all that convincing. Still, he scored 24 goals to help Milan win the 2003/04 Serie A title.

Although his inability to help the Italian giants avoid a humiliating 4-0 Champions League defeat to Deportivo La Coruña was a major flaw in the eyes of the supporters. It saw Milan blow a 4-1 aggregate to exit the quarter-finals, and surrender their European crown.

Therefore, many believed that Deco was a more worthy winner after inspiring FC Porto to a quadruple in the Primeira Liga, Portuguese Super Cup, Champions League and Intercontinental Cup.

However, Shevchenko won the Ballon d’Or comfortably with Ronaldinho rounding off the top-three.

Lionel Messi (2010)

FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2010
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It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when fans questioned if Messi deserved a Ballon d’Or.

But that’s exactly what happened in 2010, when the Argentine made it back-to-back wins ahead of Barcelona team-mates Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.

On paper, perhaps, Messi deserved the award having managed 47 goals and 13 assists in 53 appearances in 2009/10. It helped Barcelona win another La Liga. However, he did not score even once as Argentina crashed out of the World Cup quarter-finals to Germany.

While Iniesta capped off a splendid campaign in South Africa by scoring the winner in Spain’s World Cup final with the Netherlands.

Wesley Sneijder, on the other hand, was another worthy candidate having inspired Inter Milan to Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League. He later helped the Dutch finish runners-up in the World Cup.

Pavel Nedved (2003)

Pavel Nedved of Juventus celebrates scoring
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Many expected 2003 to be Thierry Henry’s year having soared for Arsenal in the 2002/03 campaign. He finished with 32 goals and 28 assists in 55 outings, but the Gunners could only win the FA Cup.

Ultimately, this went against Henry in the France Football voting panel with Nedved getting the nod instead.

The former Czech Republic international had helped Juventus win the Serie A title and finish runners-up in the Champions League to AC Milan. However, Nedved’s Ballon d’Or win caught many by surprise.

Another legend overlooked was Milan skipper Paolo Maldini, who rounded-off the top-three.

While FIFA World Player of the Year, Zinedine Zidane, came home in fifth place.

Michael Owen (2001)

Michael Owen, Liverpool
5 May 2001: Hat-trick hero Michael Owen of Liverpool celebrates during the FA Carling Premiership match against Newcastle United played at Anfield, in Liverpool, England. Liverpool won the match 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Michael Steele /Allsport

Owen became the first Englishman since Kevin Keegan in 1979 to win the highly-coveted Ballon d’Or in 2001. It came following his exploits in the 2000/01 season, where he inspired Liverpool to a treble.

The former Real Madrid striker scored 24 goals in 46 appearances across all competitions, and also played a big role in England’s qualification for the 2002 World Cup.

But beating Real Madrid’s Raul Gonzalez and Oliver Kahn of Bayern Munich to the prize was a bit too much.