Unveiling the Super Ballon d'Or: A Hidden Gem in Football Awards

In the world of football awards, one gem that often stays in the shadows is the Super Ballon d’Or. While it might not be as widely known, it holds significant prestige, being presented by the esteemed France Football, similar to the renowned Ballon d’Or itself. What is the story behind the Super Ballon d’Or, and who claimed the latest victory?


Super Ballon d’Or: Definition and Mechanics

The Super Ballon d’Or, awarded by France Football, replicates the FIFA Ballon d’Or beyond their collaboration. The prize honours the best footballer of the past thirty years, highlighting the sport’s rich history. The Super Ballon d’Or isn’t just a journalistic award, unlike the yearly Ballon. Journalists, previous Ballon d’Or winners, and readers determine the final ranking.

The Ballon d’Or was strictly reserved for European players until 1995 (when non-Europeans had to play for a UEFA club, won by Weah) and 2007 (when Kaká won without limits). In future editions, it will be available to players worldwide.


Super Ballon d’Or: The Champions

Only Alfredo Di Stefano has won the Super Ballon d’Or, announced on December 24, 1989. River Plate star, known for his role in Real Madrid’s first five European Cup wins, won this unique award ahead of Johan Cruijff and Michel

All candidates were selected from players who had won the Ballon d’Or at least twice, as evident in the choices.


Super Ballon d’Or: Why Di Stefano?

It’s crucial to note that, at the time, the criterion was to choose from European players based on their involvement with European clubs over the preceding 30 years. Despite being Argentine by birth and upbringing, Di Stefano was considered Spanish.

Despite matching the juries’ six votes, Pelé, Maradona, Garrincha, and Zico were eliminated owing to passport concerns. Younger audiences unfamiliar with his era may associate Alfredo Di Stefano with grainy black-and-white photographs.

He arrived in Europe at 27 in 1953 after playing for River Plate and Millonarios de Bogotá, a non-FIFA team. Di Stefano never played in a World Cup; in 1950, Argentina withdrew, in 1954, he wasn’t yet Spanish, in 1958, Spain didn’t qualify, and in 1962, at 36, he had his sole chance in Chile, under the management of Helenio Herrera, but was thwarted by a muscular injury. It’s worth mentioning that among the six two-time Ballon d’Or winners, Beckenbauer in 1974 was the only one to win the World Cup.


Super Ballon d’Or: Messi Eyeing the Second

Players from the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s should have been considered for the second Super Ballon d’Or in 2019. Despite the availability of football legends in this three-decade timeframe, especially with passport limitations lifted, this didn’t happen. The next Super Ballon d’Or may be awarded shortly, or it may last until 2029, spanning 40 years. Regardless, Messi stands as the frontrunner to claim the honor, although Di Stefano’s victory indicates that a World Cup triumph may not be the decisive factor. Cristiano Ronaldo, with five Champions League titles and more, is a strong candidate.

If, as in the inaugural edition, candidates are chosen from those winning at least two Ballon d’Or titles from 1989 onward, the field narrows down to Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldo, and Van Basten. Considering all criteria, it’s challenging for the award not to go to Messi.


Super Ballon d’Or: Pelé, Player of the Century

After Di Stefano’s award and the admission of international players, France Football struggled to choose a legitimate honor. They created the Player of the Century award in 1999 with a jury of only Ballon d’Or winners until 1999 (with the exception of Yashin, who died, and Sivori, Best, and Matthäus, who declined to vote). 

Pelé won with 122 points, beating Maradona (65) and Cruijff (62), with Di Stefano fourth at 44 and Platini fifth at 40. Pelé was named Player of the Century, a recognition that, logically, should surpass the importance of the Super Ballon d’Or.