Coral’s all-time brilliant Ballon d’Or winners starting XI
While excitement and debate swirls around the current Ballon d’Or nominees, Coral gets nostalgic and consider which past stars crowned best player would make our starting XI of top gong winners.
Goalkeeper – Lev Yashin (Dynamo Moscow, 1963)
Although Yashin is the only super stopper to have ever lifted the award, he is included in this list purely on merit. This iconic keeper is always at the forefront of greatest goalie debates and, famous for his incredible reflexes, is credited with saving 151 spot kicks in his career.
Centre back – Franz Beckenbaur (Bayern Munich, 1976)
“The Emperor” is synonymous with German football success. A decorated defender, Beckenbauer is one of only two people to have won the World Cup as both a player and manager. Renowned for his leadership skills, the silky sweeper was also unafraid of a forays forward, netting 14 goals for West Germany during his career.
Centre back – Fabio Cannavaro (Real Madrid, 2006)
Crafty Cannavaro was a key component in Italy’s 2006 World Cup win, where he captained his nation and failed to receive a single booking. He remains the Azzurri’s most capped player with 136 appearances. The imperious Neapolitan centre half has also enjoyed much club success, winning two La Liga titles with Real and lifting a UEFA Cup with Parma.
Centre back – Lothar Matthaus (Inter Milan, 1990)
Originally a celebrated box-to-box midfielder, Mathaus switched to a sweeper role later in his career. Blessed with great balance and perfect positional sense, Mathaus was also an attacking threat. The Inter and Bayern Munich star led West Germany to World Cup success in 1990, contributing four goals to the cause.
Right wing – Luis Figo (Real Madrid, 2000)
Creative wideman Figo was Portugal’s brightest star long before Cristiano Ronaldo took over the mantle, leading his country’s “Golden Generation” to a World Cup semi-final. Figo is also known for the controversy caused by his switch from Barcelona to bitter rivals Real Madrid, where he became a ‘Galactico’ and lifted two La Liga titles and a Champions League.
Central midfield – Sammer (Borussia Dortmund, 1996)
German defensive midfield shield Sammer pulled the strings for his nation in their Euro 1996 triumph, which was especially memorable given the competition took place in England. Composed and intelligent, Sammer also has three Bundesliga medals and one Champions League win under his belt.
Central midfield – Zinedine Zidane (Juventus, 1998)
Regarded as one of the greatest players to have ever graced the game, Zidane earns his spot in this XI for his incredible vision and technique. The fabulous Frenchman plied his trade for European giants Real Madrid and Juventus, even guiding his nation to a World Cup victory on home soil.
Left wing – Kevin Keegan (Hamburg, 1978 and 1979)
Keegan won the Ballon d’Or twice during his esteemed career, placing him among such illustrious company as Alfredo di Stefano and Ronaldo. The tenacious and talented Englishman made waves abroad as well as at home, winning the Bundesliga with Hamburg. Keegan’s most successful time was spent at Liverpool, however, where he lifted the 1977 European Cup.
Forward – Johan Cruyff ( Ajax and Barcelona, 1971, 1973 and 1974)
Cruyff’s influence and ‘Total Football’ philosophy are still felt in football today, notably over former club’s Ajax and Barcelona. The amazingly skillful attacker scored 33 times in 48 appearances for the Netherlands, with his unique style resulting in a move coined “the Cruyff turn” and winning him a joint record three Ballon d’Ors.
Forward – Marco van Basten (AC Milan, 1988, 1989 and 1992)
Fearsome forward and three-time winner Van Basten was forced into early retirement, aged just 28, but his great goal scoring legacy remains. With an incredible record of 218 strikes in 280 league games for Ajax and Milan, the flying Dutchman was renowned for his stunning volley technique and lifted the European Cup twice as part of a historic Milan side.
Forward – Ronaldo (Inter Milan, 2002)
Known as “the phenomenon”, Ronaldo was once considered the biggest threat in world football. A complete striker with pace, power, guile and tricky feet, the brilliant Brazilian recently held the record for most goals scored in the World Cup and won the competition twice.