Retrospective: African Players in Competition for the Ballon d’Or

December 3, 2021
African football players: Source –

The next winner of the Ballon d’Or 2021 was announced on 29 November. In the last draw of 2021, the Africans had little chance of winning. As predicted by the bookmakers, the biggest battle was between Messi and Lewandowski.

So go now football fans can find gambling operators reviews with bets on sporting events with their participation and Ballon d’Or award news.

Despite many experts favouring Lewandowski, Messi won his next, this time seventh Ballon d’Or. The best of the Africans, Egyptian Mohamed Salah, finished 7th, while Algerian Riyad Marez was 20th on France Football’s final list.

How it all started

France Football magazine began giving the award in the middle of the 20th century. But editors only gave the trophy to players from Europe for a long time. Therefore, African players could not compete for it until 1995, when the reform took place.

All footballers playing in Europe could contend for the title of the best player regardless of their nationality. That same year George Weah of Liberia, the first non-European to win the Ballon d’Or, was voted best footballer. George Weah, in 1995 managed to play for two clubs: PSG and AC Milan.

His game has caused admiration among the world public. The footballing public recognized him with the Ballon d’Or, but he was also voted FIFA Player of the Year and African Footballer of the Year.

Sadly, however, following his worldwide acclaim, he failed to live up to the high standard he set in 1995. His career peaked at three clubs: Monaco, PSG, Milan. In total, Weah scored 193 goals in official matches in European tournaments.

During the 1990s, three other players besides Weah were voted best players in Europe. Nigerian forward Nwankwo Kanu was twice (1996, 1999) included in the list of best. The 1996 Olympic gold medallist had the most success with Ajax and Arsenal.

At Inter, he hardly ever took to the pitch due to health problems, which prevented him from showing his full potential. In 1996, Ghanaian Tony Yeboah featured on 23rd position in the list of the best, while Victor Ikpeba, who was a player of Monaco at the time, became the only African in the list but took only 32nd place.

The following year with African players was 2002 when the Senegalese national team outplayed France in the World Cup and reached the ¼ finals. As a result, two Senegalese players, Papa Bouba Diop and El Hadji Diouf were voted best footballers.

But there was no real fight for the France Football award. But going forward, the Africans regularly made the lists for the final vote and picked up a good number of points.

The best of times

Ivorian Didier Drogba, playing for Chelsea, has regularly been a full-fledged contender for the Ballon d’Or. From 2004 to 2012, he was almost always one of the top 10 players in Europe. But his best position was fourth in 2007. Another striking forward was the Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o.

Like Drogba, he was one of the contenders for the Ballon d’Or almost every year and was also a regular in the top 10 in terms of points scored. The stand-out result for the Cameroonian was in 2009, when, playing for Inter, he finished fifth in 2009.

But Eto’o and Didier Drogba in the 2000s were the exceptions to the rule. They showed consistent play at a high level. Most of the African players who scored in the voting only made it 1-2 times to the final list of Ballon d’Or contenders. We can recall Asamoah Gyan (2010), Emmanuel Adebayor (2008), Frederic Kanoute (2007), Michael Essien (2004, 2007).

Ivorian midfielder Yaya Touré was regularly featured in the top 30 of the Ballon d’Or list in the early 2010s, but his best result was 12th.

Hope for the future

As Liverpool’s striker, Salah regularly makes it to the top of the best players playing in Europe. So in 2019, he was at number 5, in 2018 at number 6. Riyad Marez is also a regular among the top 30 footballers.

His result was the best in 2016 when he was the 7th footballer in the world, playing for Leicester. In recent years, apart from Marez and Salah, only one African has made the list of top footballers. That was Senegal’s Sadio Mane, who stopped at number 4 in 2019.

There were talents among African footballers apart from Weah who could have won the top award, but they were unlucky to be born in the era of Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi, who have won 12 Golden Balls for two.

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