Michel Platini, pictured with the 1985 Ballon d'Or, won the award three times in succession.
The Ballon d'Or (French pronunciation: [balɔ̃ dɔʁ]; "Golden Ball"), is an annual association football award presented by France Football. It has been awarded since 1956, although between 2010 and 2015, an agreement was made with the FIFA and the award was temporarily merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year, and known as the FIFA Ballon d'Or. Conceived by sports writer Gabriel Hanot, the Ballon d'Or award honours the male player deemed to have performed the best over the previous year, based on voting by football journalists. Originally, only European players were in contention for the Ballon d'Or: in 1995 the award was expanded to include all players at European clubs and in 2007 to all players from around the world.
Stanley Matthews of Blackpool was the inaugural winner of the Ballon d'Or. Prior to 1995, the award was often known in English language media as the European Footballer of the Year award. Milan's George Weah, the only African recipient, became the first non-European to win the award in the year the rules of eligibility were changed.Ronaldo of Internazionale became the first South American winner two years later. Three players have won the award three times each: Johan Cruyff of Ajax and Barcelona, Michel Platini of Juventus and Marco van Basten of Milan. With seven awards each, Dutch and German players won the most Ballons d'Or. Spanish club Barcelona had the most winners.
A special Ban d'Or, under the name Super Ballon d'Or, was awarded to Alfredo Di Stéfano in 1989, after he surpassed Johan Cruyff and Michel Platini in France Football's voting. A decade later, France Football elected Pelé the Football Player of the Century after consulting their former Ballon d'Or recipients. Among the 34 previous winners, 30 cast their votes; Stanley Matthews, Omar Sívori and George Best abstained, and Lev Yashin had died. Each voter was allotted five votes worth up to five points; however, Di Stéfano only chose a first place, Platini a first and second place, and George Weah two players for fifth place. Pelé was named the greatest by 17 voters, receiving almost double the number of points earned by the runner-up, Diego Maradona.
To coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Ballon d'Or in 2016, France Football published a reevaluation of the awards presented before 1995, when only European players were eligible to win the award. 12 out of the 39 Ballons d'Or presented during this time period would have been awarded to South American players; in addition to Pelé and Diego Maradona, Garrincha, Mario Kempes, and Romário were retrospectively recognized as worthy winners. The original recipients, however, remain unchanged. Maradona and Pelé received honorary Ballons d'Or for their services to football in 1996 and 2013, respectively.