The Ballon d’Or will be awarded this week with football’s finest player set to be recognised in a star-studded ceremony held in Paris.
Lionel Messi is favourite to win a record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or crown after leading Argentina to World Cup success last winter, with the forward’s chief competition to come from Erling Haaland, who scored 52 goals in all competitions as Manchester City won the treble in 2022/23.
Haaland could become one of the youngest players to win the Ballon d’Or, though the 23-year-old would just miss out on a place on this list.
Remembering the five youngest players to win the Ballon d’Or:
5. Oleg Blokhin – 23 years, 1 Month 25 days (1975)
Oleg Blokhin was named as winner of the Ballon d’Or in 1975, becoming the first Ukrainian player to win the award. The striker was a prolific presence for both Dynamo Kyiv and the Soviet Union, winning eight league titles with the former.
His Ballon d’Or triumph came after scoring 23 goals in 36 appearances for a Dynamo Kyiv side who won a Soviet Top League and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup double, with Blokhin scoring the third goal in the 3-0 final win over Ferencvárosi in the latter competition.
Blokhin – who is Dynamo Kyiv’s all-time record goalscorer with 266 goals in all competitions – finished ahead of Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff in the vote.
4. George Best – 22 years, 7 Months 2 days (1968)
George Best was recognised as European football’s best player for his starring role in Manchester United’s first European Cup success in 1968.
The Northern Irishman produced a spectacular season to score 32 goals in 53 appearances in all competitions, a return which earned Best the FWA Footballer of the Year, becoming the youngest recipients of the award, and First Division Golden Boot.
Best’s brilliance was the difference as Sir Matt Busby’s side conquered Europe for the first time, scoring the decisive goal in the semi-final first leg win over Real Madrid and again as Benfica were beaten in the final.
Ballon d’Or winner 🏆
International superstar ⭐️
Forever a legend at Old Trafford 7️⃣
George Best, one of the classiest footballers ever to grace a pitch 🙌
Hard to believe he played his last Man Utd game at just 27…#TooGoodToGoDown pic.twitter.com/chiFfnDnJ5
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) December 3, 2018
Best formed part of Manchester United’s ‘holy trinity’ alongside Bobby Charlton and Denis Law, each of who claimed the Ballon d’Or with Charlton (1966) and Law (1964) recognised in earlier years.
3. Lionel Messi – 22 years, 5 Months 7 days (2009)
Lionel Messi holds a record-breaking seven Ballon d’Or wins and is the favourite to claim an eighth title in 2023 after leading Argentina to World Cup success last winter.
Messi’s first coronation came in 2009, after a season that saw the forward inspire Barcelona to treble success under Pep Guardiola. Messi scored 38 goals in all competitions during a sensational season for the Spaniards, who lifted La Liga and the Copa del Rey before beating Manchester United in the Champions League final.
Messi scored the second goal in that latter final win in Rome, to become the first Argentine to win the Ballon d’Or since the voting was opened up to non-Europeans in the mid-nineties.
2. Michael Owen – 22 years, 4 days (2001)
Michael Owen is the second-youngest winner of the Ballon d’Or having been awarded the accolade just four days after his 22nd birthday.
Owen was named as European Footballer of the Year after leading Liverpool to a cup treble in 2000/01, as Gerard Houllier’s side won the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup. Owen scored in the former two finals, including a late match-winning brace as Liverpool came from behind to beat Arsenal in the FA Cup final in Cardiff.
“The boy is a genius!”#OnThisDay in 2001, @themichaelowen scored two goals in five minutes to win the FA Cup for @LFC 🏆 pic.twitter.com/uIu054pUYA
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) May 12, 2020
Owen’s calendar year also saw Liverpool win the UEFA Super Cup and Charity Shield, scoring in both finals, and star as England secured a famous win in World Cup qualification. The forward scored a sensational hat-trick as the Three Lions thrashed Germany 5-1 at the Olympiastadion in Munich.
Iconic Performances: Michael Owen in Munich
1. Ronaldo Nazario – 21 years, 3 months, 5 days (1997)
Ronaldo Nazario holds the record as the youngest recipient of the Ballon d’Or having won the award for the first time aged just 21.
Ronaldo claimed club football’s biggest individual prize after a sublime debut season at Barcelona, one which saw the brilliant Brazilian score 47 goals in 49 appearances in all competitions. That return helped the Catalans to a Copa del Rey, Spanish Super Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup treble, before Inter Milan broke the world transfer record to sign Ronaldo that summer.
🚀 @Ronaldo jugaba a otro deporte.
🤪 Los demás solo miraban…#TalDíaComoHoy #LaLigaHistory pic.twitter.com/gCFlljvwoM
— LALIGA (@LaLiga) October 26, 2019
He scored 34 goals in all competitions during a spectacular first season in Serie A, to cement his status as the game’s premier player. Serious knee issues prevented Ronaldo from fulfilling his true potential, but he claimed a second Ballon d’Or in 2002 after leading Brazil to World Cup success.
Read – Remembering when a 21-year-old Ronaldo Nazario won the Ballon d’Or
Read Also Iconic Performances: O Fenômeno – Ronaldo hat-trick dismantles Valencia
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