The Ballon d’Or is perhaps the most prestigious individual award given out in football, and over the years it has lost a bit of its shine.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have won 11 Ballon d’Or awards between them, often making a mockery of the competition in the last decade or so.
Luka Modric ended a ten-year run of the Messi-Ronaldo Ballon d’Or domination in 2018. In the process, Modric became the first midfielder to win the award since Kaka in 2007.
Over the years, several world-class midfielders have failed to win the award. So without further ado, let’s take a look at five of the best midfielders to have never won the Ballon d’Or.
Honorable mentions: Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Claude Makalele, N’Golo Kante, Frank Ribery
Deco was perhaps one of the most underrated players of the noughties despite playing a crucial role for both Porto and Barcelona.
The Portuguese inspired an unfancied Porto side to a historic Champions League triumph in 2004, and earned a move to Barcelona.
Deco was an instant hit at Barcelona under Frank Rijkaard, and helped the Blaugrana to two back-to-back Spanish Primera Liga titles and the Champions League in 2006.
The attacking midfielder first rose to prominence under Jose Mourinho as he was the creative brain of the team. It’s still a mystery how Deco didn’t win the Ballon d’Or in 2004 for his performances.
#4 Frank Rijkaard
Part of an AC Milan team that revolutionized Italian football, Frank Rijkaard was one of the best players in his position.
The Dutchman was part of an incredible Dutch core of the Italian side, and finished third in the race for the Ballon d’Or in 1988 and 1989.
Together with Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit, Rijkaard won the European Cup and the Serie A with AC Milan, and also lifted the European Championship with the Netherlands in 1988.
Unlike van Basten and Gullit, however, Rijkaard was overlooked for the Ballon d’Or. Perhaps it was because Rijkaard played in a more defensive role compared to both his compatriots.
At his peak, Rijkaard was a physical phenomenon who controlled games and barely let anything past him in midfield and at the back.