Why Pelé and Diego Maradona never won the Ballon d’Or?

Why Pelé and Diego Maradona never won the Ballon d’Or?


Pelé and Diego Maradona are widely regarded as two of the greatest football players in history. Despite their exceptional skills and numerous achievements, they never won the prestigious Ballon d’Or award. This article aims to explore the reasons behind their lack of success in winning this individual accolade.

Lack of Eligibility

One of the main reasons why Pelé and Maradona never won the Ballon d’Or is because the award was not open to non-European players until 1995. Pelé’s prime years were in the 1960s and 1970s, while Maradona dominated the 1980s. During this period, the Ballon d’Or was primarily awarded to European players, limiting their chances of winning it.

Strong Competition

Pelé and Maradona competed against exceptional players during their respective careers. They played in eras with several outstanding European footballers who were often favored for the Ballon d’Or. For example, Johan Cruyff won the award three times in the 1970s, while Michel Platini dominated the 1980s, winning the award three times consecutively. The presence of such remarkable competitors reduced Pelé and Maradona’s opportunities to claim the trophy.

Subjectivity and Voting System

Another factor that may have hindered Pelé and Maradona’s chances of winning the Ballon d’Or is the subjectivity of the voting system. The award is determined through votes from a panel of international journalists, who may have had personal biases or preferences towards certain players or nationalities. This subjectivity could have influenced the final results and potentially overlooked Pelé and Maradona.

Political Factors

There have been instances where political factors affected the outcome of the Ballon d’Or. For example, during the 1970s, tensions existed between Brazil and the governing body of European football, which could have influenced the voting for Pelé. Additionally, Maradona’s controversial reputation and his involvement in the « Hand of God » goal and the subsequent doping scandal may have negatively impacted his chances of winning the award.

Legacy and Recognition

Although Pelé and Maradona never won the Ballon d’Or, their overall contributions and impact on the sport remain unparalleled. They are often regarded as football icons and continue to be celebrated for their remarkable careers, even without this specific individual honor. Their legacy and recognition extend beyond any award or accolade.


In conclusion, Pelé and Maradona never won the Ballon d’Or due to a combination of factors such as lack of eligibility, strong competition, subjectivity in the voting system, political influences, and their overall legacy that transcends any individual award. Despite not winning this prestigious accolade, their exceptional skills and achievements solidify their places amongst the greatest football players of all time.

Additional Questions:

1. Has any non-European player ever won the Ballon d’Or?

Yes, after the award was opened to non-European players in 1995, several non-European players have won the Ballon d’Or, including George Weah (1995), Ronaldo (2002 and 2005), Ronaldinho (2005), and Lionel Messi (2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2019).

2. How many times did Pelé and Maradona finish in the top three for the Ballon d’Or?

Pelé finished in the top three for the Ballon d’Or on three occasions (1971, 1972, and 1973). Maradona also finished in the top three three times (1986, 1987, and 1990).

3. Who were the winners of the Ballon d’Or during Pelé’s prime years?

During Pelé’s prime years, the Ballon d’Or was won by Eusébio (1965), Bobby Charlton (1966), and George Best (1968).

4. Did Pelé and Maradona receive any other significant individual awards during their careers?

Yes, both Pelé and Maradona received numerous individual awards during their careers, including FIFA Player of the Century (Pelé) and FIFA Player of the Century (Maradona).

5. Did Pelé and Maradona ever directly compete against each other?

No, Pelé and Maradona played in different eras and never directly competed against each other in official matches.

6. How many goals did Pelé and Maradona score during their careers?

Pelé scored a total of 1,283 goals in 1,366 official matches, while Maradona scored 345 goals in 680 official matches.

7. How many World Cups did Pelé and Maradona win?

Pelé won the FIFA World Cup three times with Brazil (1958, 1962, and 1970). Maradona won the World Cup once with Argentina (1986).

8. Were there any controversies surrounding the Ballon d’Or winners during Pelé and Maradona’s careers?

Yes, there were controversies surrounding some Ballon d’Or winners during Pelé and Maradona’s careers. For instance, in 1962, when Pelé was excluded from voting despite playing a crucial role in Brazil’s World Cup victory, and in 1986, when many believed Maradona deserved the award but eventually lost to Igor Belanov.


    • FIFA.com – Accessed on October 15, 2021
    • France Football – Accessed on October 15, 2021
    • ESPN – Accessed on October 15, 2021

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