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Ballon d'Or - A Barça tradition

Last night, Leo Messi got his fifth Ballon d'Or, continuing what is almost a tradition for Barça's high standards. Here is a reminder of all past awarded blaugrana talents

Ballon d'Or - A Barça tradition
Ballon d'Or - A Barça tradition

Last night, Leo Messi got his fifth Ballon d'Or, continuing what is almost a tradition for Barça's high standards. Here is a reminder of all past awarded blaugrana talents

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In a club like Barça, built around the winning culture through high quality football, it is only fair to have seen a few Ballon d'Or winners come by. From Luis Suárez - the other one - to Leo Messi, they were 6 to lift football's most prestigious individual reward, continuing a very impressive tradition of excellence at Camp Nou. No matter the times, the rivals, Barça always succeeds in getting the best out of their football players. Here are the ones whose names will forever remains in football history books.

1960 - Luis Suárez Miramontes - Long live the pioneer

Photo credit to kaisermagazine.com
 

Before the Uruguayan living legend arrived at Barcelona to add his talent to an already impressive roster, there was another Luis Suárez. Today aged 80, the Galician crack was a master midfielder while playing for Barça, and probably one of the best players of the 20th century. During a prosperous period at Barça, during which the club lifted two Spanish Liga, two "Copa Generalísimo" (today Copa del Rey) and 2 "Copa de Feria" (equivalent to today's Europa League), Luis Suárez scored 62 goals in 126 games, an remarkable stat for a remarkable player. In 1960, Suárez won the Ballon d'Or, becoming the first - and only - Spanish born player ever to win the award. The "Architect" (before Andrea Pirlo) managed to overcome Hungrian legend Ferenc Puskás and Hamburg's extremely prolific striker Uwe Seeler (279 goals in 279 games with the HSV). An authentic achievement.

What happened next: Suárez brought his rare talent to one of the best teams of the 1960's, Internazionale. He kept on the good work and managed to get 2 second places (1961, 1964) and a third place (1965) with the Italian side.

1960 Ballon d'Or

1st: Luis Suárez Miramontes (Barça) - 54 points

2nd: Ferenc Puskás (Real Madrid) - 37 points

3rd: Uwe Seeler (Hamburger SV) - 33 points

1973, 1974 - Johan Cruijff - Catalan at heart

Photo credit to barcelonas.com
 

It is difficult to do him justice, truly. Johan Cruijff was one of those footballers that completely changed the game. He is the equivalent in football to Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods or Bjorn Borg. When he arrived at Barça, he already had made the world hallucinate with his teammates in Ajax, through the famous total football. First with the Dutch side, then with his new friends Pina, Sotil, Asensi, Rexach, Pérez and many more. He conquered Camp Nou with his revolutionary vision and skills of a singular delicacy. And football lovers' hearts. No one remembers Johan Cruijff in a negative way. Everyone agreed to his talent, so obvious as his election as 1973 Ballon d'Or. If this first title is due in majority to his tremendous year with Ajax, he won it as a Barça player. Cruijff arrived in Catalonia with an Eredivisie title, Champion's league and UEFA Supercup trophies. His adaptation to Barça was spectacular although he had to wait before to be able to tread upon the pitch. When he did, he gave an incredible boost to a team that had not win La Liga since 1960. The title was clinched at the end of the season, with the team not losing once after the Dutch incorporation.

His second year was not so succesful but still impressive enough to keep his legend alive and give the people goosebumps while seeing him play, despite winning no title. His political views already had the Socios converted, as Cruijff stated he did not join Real Madrid because of Franco's opressive regime. Dedicated to rehabilitate Catalonia and its defenders, Cruijff became an iconic figure of the region, beyond the boundaries of football. On the pitch, he was this poet everyone longs to watch. He was a trophy himself, a trophy Barça have been cherishing for a long time. Despite a second season at Camp Nou without trophies, Johan gets another Ballon d'Or and become the first ever player to get three - he won his first one at Ajax in 1971.

What happened next: Cruijff kept on developing his vision at the club, as a player, winning a Copa del Rey as a goodbye gift as he left Barça in 1978 to go to the United States, only to return to Barça - as a coach - in 1988, for 8 years and many more successes (let's just say "dream team").

1973 Ballon d'Or

1st: Johan Cruijff (Ajax/Barça) - 96 points

2nd: Dino Zoff (Juventus) - 47 points

3rd: Gerd Müller (FC Bayern) - 44 points

1974 Ballon d'Or

1st: Johan Cruijff (Barça) - 116 points

2nd: Franz Beckenbauer (FC Bayern) - 105 points

3rd: Kazimierz Deyna (Legia Warsaw) - 35 points

1994 - Hristo Stoichkov - Bulgarian Beauty

Photo credit to foxsports.com.br
 

Here comes the dream team. Johan Cruijff did not abandoned his plan to make of Barça world's role model with regards to football. Amid his years of coaching, the Dutchman made up a team that many consider as the best to have ever played for Barça. In Catalonia, Stoichkov's friends were Guardiola, Zubizarreta, Koeman, Laudrup, Romário, and Bakero. More than the names individually, it was the way the team was playing that made football observers go crazy about Barça and Cruijff. Irresistible, the Blaugranas won the club's first Champion's League in 1992, overcoming Sampdoria in the extra-time (1-0, goal from Koeman).

In 1994, Barça "only" won La Liga after a thrilling ending with both Barça and Deportivo having 56 points, in a league in which wins only accounted for two points. Barça eventually won thanks to the goal difference in their games against Deportivo. But more than his great performances with Blaugranas, it was Stoichkov's amazing run with Bulgaria in the 1994 World Cup that enabled him to win his 1994 Ballon d'Or. That year, Bulgaria reached the semi-finals of the competition, only to be beaten by Italy 1-2 (Stoichkov scored Bulgaria's goal) and then by Sweden, other suprise of the World Cup (4-0) in the match for 3rd place. Hristo finished top scorer alongside Ukraine's Oleg Salenko, deserving undoubtedly his award.

What happened next: Stoichkov decided he was time for him to leave and went in 1995 to Parma, before to come back to play two years for Barcelona, and leave again to Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia, Japan and the United States, the land of his biggest acomplishment.

1994 Ballon d'Or

1st: Hristo Stoichkov (Barça) - 210 points

2nd: Roberto Baggio (Juventus) - 136 points

3rd: Paolo Maldini (AC Milan) - 109 points

1999 - Rivaldo - Without competition

A goal to define Rivaldo at Barça? The La Liga's 3-2 late bicycle kick against Valencia at Camp Nou to secure a place in the following season's Champion's League qualifying round. It says it all about Rivaldo's influence in that Barça. He even scored the 3 goals of his team that night to offer to Socios Champion's League football after a tough season. That's who Rivaldo is. A spectacular and decisive player capable of carrying alone his whole team.

Upon arrival at Barcelona, the Brazilian World Champion of 2002 quickly took the measure of the season ahead, and shined in his first game scoring a double against Real Sociedad in Barça's 3-0 win in the first game of La Liga season. That year - 1998, Barcelona won both La Liga and Copa del Rey. But the season that would prime him as the World's best footballer was the following one, in which he ended as the runner-up for 1999's Pitxitxi trophy with 24 goals, 1 goal behind Real Madrid's Raul González. In his prime at Camp Nou, Rivaldo received the Ballon d'Or before to suffer from the tensions he had with first team coach Louis Van Gaal. Nevertheless, Barça fans remember him as a pure dime that made of the turn of century a astonishing show.

What happened next: The carreer of Rivaldo took a disappointing turn after he decided to leave Barcelona to try his luck in Serie A and AC Milan. Not really giving satisfaction, he was loaned out to Cruzeiro before to join Greece and Olympiakos, and then AEK Athens. Although he was playing at European top level in the Champion's League, Rivaldo suffered this change of atmosphere and went on to some exotic challenges. He finally returned to Brazil where he enjoyed a refreshing end of career.

1999 Ballon d'Or

1st: Rivaldo (Barça) - 210 points

2nd: David Beckham (Manchester United) - 136 points

3rd: Andriy Chevtchenko (Dynamo Kiev/AC Milan) - 109 points

2005 - Ronaldinho - Messi's spiritual father

If we were to answer the question "What makes Brazilian football so special", we could answer only this: Ronaldinho. "Ronnie" represents the spirit of "Joga Bonito" from head to toe. It was logical for him to come to Barça after his impressive European breakthrough in Paris Saint-Germain, although the Catalan team was not at his best. It was only a matter of time before it started shining again, thanks to its brazilian magician.

Fully adapted to European football, Ronaldinho started lighting fires from all parts of the pitch, giving followers of La Liga a lot of good reasons to watch Barça games. Between his numerous pieces of art in Champion's League games, his recital at Santiago Bernabeu in 2005-06 La Liga 0-3 win and his magical free-kicks, Ronaldinho recreated the wonderland Barça fans were missing. The year 2005 was magnificent for the 2002 World Champion. Best player of the 2004-05 Champion's League, he also helped the club clinch another La Liga title, the first since Rivaldo's golden year of 1999. His influence in the game and his numerous assist made him an obvious choice when awarding the 2005 Ballon d'Or. From that point, he went on declining, and quietly disappeared to let another wonder take over. It is probably his biggest contribution to Barça: "Ronnie" was the one to teach to Leo Messi how to take free-kicks, but also to develop his pure talent. For Messi's eclosion, Barça says 'thank you' to Ronaldinho Gaucho.

What happened next: After a couple of disappointing seasons, during which his lifestyle jeopardised his carrer, Ronaldinho tried to take a new start alongside his friends Kaka' and Ronaldo in AC Milan. Although he still produced amazing moments at San Siro, he never was the same he turned out to be in Barcelona. But he still make people smile just by dancing with the ball. He now plays for Fluminense in Brazil.

2005 Ballon d'Or

1st: Ronaldinho (Barça) - 225 points

2nd: Frank Lampard (Chelsea FC) - 223 points

3rd: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool FC) - 142 points

2009,2010,2011,2012,2015 - Lionel Messi - The Only One

Where to even begin? And more importantly, when will it end? Nobody knows. What we do know, is that Leo Messi is one of the most fantastic footballers the world ever witnessed. Growing up in the shadow of another magician, Ronaldinho, the Argentinian gem grew bigger and bigger until he became one with the club. To walk into the streets of Barcelona and to talk with people about football there make you realise how much he means for the club, the city and even Catalonia. He is the best answer to Madrid's millions, and one of the greatest talents to have walked out of La Masia.

We could almost publish a book just containing his stats, it would already be a big one. Since he first wore Barça's shirt in 2004 in a derby against Espanyol, he has not stopped breaking records, making oponents cry and followers dream. His first goal against Albacete, the 1st of May 2005 (assist by Ronaldinho) made him the youngest Barça player to ever score a goal. His talent could not wait. And it still doesn't. He is the club's all-time best scorer (430 goals in 503 games), the club's 6th player with most caps (503) and now the club's and the world's player with the most Ballon d'Ors in history. He overcame Ronaldinho, Cruijff and every other one. He won the sextuple in 2009 (Liga, Champion's League, Copa del Rey, Spanish Supercup, European Supercup, FIFA Clubs World Cup), year of his first award, and won the Golden Boot three years in the row (2010, 2012, 2013), over Cristiano Ronaldo, his biggest rival. He is so incredible with Barça that his performances with Argentina (2010 World Cup quarter-finals, 2014 World Cup final, 2007 and 2015 Copa America finals) did not prevent him from winning 5 Ballon d'Ors, only letting 3 to Cristiano Ronaldo (2008, 2013, 2014). With an Olympic Games victory (2008), 3 FIFA Club's World Cups (2009, 2011, 2015), 3 UEFA Super Cups (2009, 2011, 2015), 4 Champion's League title (2006, 2009, 2011, 2015), 5 Spanish Super Cups (2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013) and 7 La Liga titles (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015), Messi is the undisputed best player in the World. Nothing more to say.

What will happen next? No one knows what Messi has in store for the few years he has left before to think about retiring - and that could be a while. The only sure thing is that he won't stop shining at Camp Nou and all over Europe. Maybe he will finally suceed in bringing a big trophy back to Argentina, whether it is the 2018 World Cup in Russia or the coming editions of Copa America (2016 Centennial Copa America in USA or 2019 Copa America in Brazil). His father and his whole family is proud of him, we all are in a way. As long as Messi rhymes with dream football, there is not much more we ask for. He has already made his place in history, he can only make it bigger.

2009 Ballon d'Or

1st: Leo Messi (Barça) - 473 points

2nd: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) - 233 points

3rd: Xavi Hernández (Barça) - 170 points

2010 Ballon d'Or

1st: Leo Messi (Barça) - 22,65 %

2nd: Andrés Iniesta (Barça) - 17,37 %

3rd: Xavi Hernández (Barça) - 16,48 %

2011 Ballon d'Or

1st: Leo Messi (Barça) - 47,88 %

2nd: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) - 21,60 %

3rd: Xavi Hernández (Barça) - 9,23 %

2012 Ballon d'Or

1st: Leo Messi (Barça) - 41,60 %

2nd: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) - 23,68 %

3rd: Andrés Iniesta (Barça) - 10,91 %

2015 Ballon d'Or

1st: Leo Messi (Barça) - 41,33 %

2nd: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) - 27,76 %

3rd: Neymar (Barça) - 7,86 %

Honorary mentions

Here are the honours for Barça in all Ballon d'Or ceremonies

Ballon d'Ors: 11 (Suárez 1960 - Cruijff 1973, 1974 - Stoichkov 1994 - Rivaldo 1999 - Ronaldinho 2005 - Messi 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015)

2nd place: 10 (Krankl 1978 - Schuster 1980 - Lineker 1986 - Stoichkov 1992 - Ronaldo 1996 - Deco 2004 - Iniesta 2010 - Messi 2008, 2013, 2014)

3rd place: 10 (Cruijff 1975 - Schuster 1981 - Schuster 1985 - Ronaldinho 2004 - Messi 2007 - Xavi Hernández 2009, 2010, 2011 - Iniesta 2012 - Neymar 2015)

FIFA Men's World Coach of the year (since 2010): 2 (Guardiola 2011 - Luis Enrique 2015)

FIFA Puskas Award (Most beautiful goal of the year, since 2009): 0

2nd place: 2 

Andres Iniesta v Chelsea: 2009 Champion's League semi-finals 2nd leg (1-1) - Stamford Bridge

Lionel Messi v Athletic Bilbao: 2014-15 Copa del Rey final (3-1) - Camp Nou

3rd place: 1

Lionel Messi v Arsenal: 2010-11