Updated: Sep 12
In the history of football, only 43 players have won the Ballon d’Or, only eight different countries have won the FIFA World Cup and only 22 teams have won the UEFA Champions League or the European Cup as it was previously known.
It would be the dream of most professional footballers to win either one of those trophies but the chances are that unless you have won the World Cup or the Champions League, you won’t win the Ballon d’Or. Nevertheless, only eight different players have had the opportunity to win the holy trinity of football.
If Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi win the World Cup in Russia, then one of them can join this exclusive list. However, this could be the last opportunity for either one of them as Ronaldo is 33 years old and Messi turns 31 during the tournament.
If Neymar can win the World Cup with Brazil and then go on to claim the Ballon d’Or, then he could join the list which has eluded even Ronaldo and Messi. As things stand, these are the only eight players to have won the Ballon d’Or, FIFA World Cup and the European Cup/Champions League.
1 Bobby Charlton
Manchester United great, Bobby Charlton, was the first player ever to win the Ballon d’Or, FIFA World Cup and European Cup.
Charlton spent almost his entire professional career playing for Manchester United. He scored 249 goals for the club in 758 games and is one of the survivors of the Munich disaster.
He was an important member of the England team that won the country’s only FIFA World Cup in 1966. He scored three goals during the tournament, including both the goals in a 2-1 semifinal victory over Eusebio’s Portugal.
His World Cup triumph helped him win the Ballon d’Or in 1966 and thus became the second English player to win the honour after Stanley Matthews in 1956.
Charlton won his only European Cup in 1968 as Manchester United overcame Benfica 4-1 with Charlton scoring a brace and like in the semifinal of the 1966 FIFA World Cup, Eusebio was on the losing side.
2 Paolo Rossi
Five Italians have won the Ballon d’Or and Italy have won the FIFA World Cup four times and yet the only Italian to win all three prestigious trophies is Paolo Rossi.
Before divulging into Rossi’s World Cup exploits, we need to discuss what happened before the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
He played for Lanerossi Vicenza between 1976 and 1979 and it was with them that he rose to fame. During this period, he was named in the Italy squad for the 1978 FIFA World Cup where he won the Silver Ball for the tournament’s second best player, having scored three goals and four assists as Italy finished fourth.
He was jointly owned by Juventus and Vicenza and after the 1978 World Cup, the two clubs were asked to settle the property and it ended with Vicenza signing him for a then World record fee!
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The following season was marred with injuries and Vicenza were relegated to the Serie B despite Rossi scoring 15 goals. He was loaned out to Perugia for the 1979/80 season and during his spell there, he was infamously involved in the betting scandal known as Totonero.
Rossi claimed he was innocent but he was suspended for three years which was later reduced to two. As a result, he missed the 1980 Euro which was played in Italy.
He joined Juventus in 1981 and returned to action after completing his suspension towards the end of 1981/82 season. He was named in the squad for the World Cup despite claims from the media and fans alike that he was in poor shape.
The view gained more popularity when Italy drew all three games in the group stage and progressed to the next round only because they had scored one goal more than Cameroon.
In the next round, Italy were placed with the South American powerhouses Brazil and Argentina. Italy beat Argentina 2-1 in the first game with a brilliant defensive display but it was Rossi’s magnificent hat-trick against a Brazil side consisting of Sócrates, Zico, and Falcão that helped the Italians win 3-2 and progress to the semifinal.
In the semifinal, Rossi scored both goals as Italy won 2-0 against Poland and set up a final with West Germany. In the final, Rossi scored the first goal of the game as his side won 3-1 to lift their third World Cup and their first since 1938.
He won the tournament’s golden boot and golden ball for best player. The biggest individual award was also bestowed upon him in the same year as he won the Ballon d’Or.
Three years later, he was part of the Juventus team that defeated defending Champions Liverpool in the final of the European Cup.
3 Gerd Muller
Gerd Muller was a goal scoring machine during his playing days having scored 564 goals in 605 games for Bayern Munich. In total, he scored 721 professional goals in 769 games!
There were several highlights during his playing career including scoring 10 goals in the 1970 FIFA World Cup although Germany failed to win the coveted trophy. However, Muller won the Ballon d’Or that year for his exploits.
Four years later, he scored four more goals at the World Cup as Germany went on to beat the Netherlands in the final and win the tournament.
The year 1974 was a good one for the German players playing for Bayern Munich as the club had gone on to win its first European Cup. However, their good times were only beginning.
Bayern would go on to make it a hat-trick of European Cups and Muller was an important player for the Bavarians throughout.
There was another German from that squad who won the Ballon d’Or, FIFA World Cup and European Cup and that is...
Credit : https://www.youtube.com/bundesligatv
4 Franz Beckenbauer
Beckenbauer was Muller’s teammate and captain at both club and national level during the glory years of Bayern Munich and Germany.
He was named the German captain in 1971 and the following year he captained the team that won the European Championship. His excellent year was rewarded with his first Ballon d’Or.
Two years later, he would captain the Germany team to a FIFA World Cup triumph shortly after winning the European Cup with Bayern Munich. In 1976, Bayern Munich completed their hat-trick of European Cups and Beckenbauer won the Ballon d’Or for the second time in his career.
During his playing career, he won numerous team and individual honours including a Bundesliga title with Hamburger in 1982!
He is considered to have pioneered the role of the sweeper and is easily among the greatest players to have played the game both in terms of talent and success.
Oh! He is also one of only two people to have won the World Cup as both player and coach. What a man!
5 Zinedine Zidane
When Zinedine Zidane took over as manager of Real Madrid halfway through the 2015/16 season, many feared it would ultimately tarnish his legacy as a player because it is one of the toughest jobs in football. However, he has only enhanced his reputation after winning 9 trophies including a hat-trick of UEFA Champions League trophies.
That being said, Zidane as a player was no less and is widely regarded as one of the greatest of all time.
The Ballon d’Or was an award initially given only to European players and Zidane is the last European player or to be more accurate, the last non-Brazilian player to win the FIFA World Cup, Ballon d’Or and Champions League.
The Frenchman won the FIFA World Cup with France in 1998 and scored two goals in the final against the defending champions, Brazil. Before the World Cup, he won the Scudetto with Juventus and as a result of an excellent year for both club and country, he won the Ballon d’Or in 1998.
During his time with Juventus, the club reached two Champions League finals and lost them both. It was ultimately with Real Madrid in 2002 that he finally won the Champions League. In the final against Bayern Leverkusen, he scored one of the greatest goals of all time!
Rivaldo was the first non-European to win all three honours in question.
The Brazilian spent five seasons at Barcelona between 1997 and 2002 and it was in 1999 while playing for the Catalan club that he won the Ballon d’Or.
In 1999, he won the La Liga and Copa America. He scored 5 goals during the Copa America which was a joint highest with his teammate Ronaldo and two of his goals were in the final against Uruguay. He was also named the tournament’s best player.
In 2002, he was a crucial member of the Brazil team that won the World Cup and like in the 1999 Copa America, Rivaldo ended the tournament with five goals to his name with each one coming against a different opposition.
In the same year, he left Barcelona to join AC Milan but he was reduced to a squad player at the club during his two-year stint there. Nevertheless, Rivaldo won the UEFA Champions League with Milan in his first season although he was left on the bench in the final against Juventus.
For a lot of people who grew up watching football in the 2000s, Ronaldinho will forever be etched in their minds.
The Brazilian’s superior skills endeared him to fans all over the world and it was probably during the 2002 FIFA World Cup that his fan base grew in number. He scored two goals during Brazil’s victorious World Cup campaign including a memorable winner against England in the quarter-final.
A year after the World Cup, he moved to Barcelona where he enjoyed the best years of his professional career.
In 2005, he won the La Liga with Barcelona and then followed it up by winning the Confederations Cup. During the latter tournament, he scored three goals, including one against Germany in the semifinal and one against Argentina in the final. He ended a very good year at the club and international level by claiming the Ballon d’Or.
The 2005/06 season was statistically Ronaldinho’s best season in Europe as he scored 26 goals in 45 games. Seven of his 26 goals came in that season’s UEFA Champions League which Barcelona won by defeating Arsenal 2-1 in the final.
Although he played in Europe for another five years, he was unable to add another Champions League winners medal to his name.
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Kaka is the last player to win the Ballon d’Or before Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi took ever.
He was part of Brazil’s 23-man squad for the 2002 FIFA World Cup but only played 25 minutes at the tournament, all of which came against Costa Rica in the first round with Brazil already winning the game 5-2.
Despite his limited role for Brazil at the World Cup, Kaka’s form at club level for Sao Paulo was attracting interest from Europe’s biggest and he signed for defending European Champions, AC Milan, in 2003.
He had his first shot at the Champions League trophy in 2005 against Liverpool but ended up on the losing side. Two years later, he was part of the Milan side that played the same opposition in the final and this time, he ended up on the winning side.
Although Kaka didn’t score in the final, he had a tremendous run in the Champions League and ended it as the tournament’s top scorer with 10 goals.
In the same year, he won the Ballon d’Or with 444 points ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo with 277 points and Lionel Messi with 255 points.
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