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Mundial de Clubes

Ballon d'Or

Buffon, Maldini, Gazza, Iniesta, Cantona... Ballon d'Or oversights

Gianluigi Buffon

The Italy great has famously never won the Champions League but there isn't much else not on his mantelpiece and he was key to the Azzurri lifting the 2006 World Cup with five clean sheets but missed out on the Ballon d'Or, which went instead to Fabio Cannavaro. Only one keeper has ever lifted football's greatest individual prize - Lev Yashin in 1963. From 2019 there is a dedicated award for keepers but Buffon, with his nine Scudetti, may never get his hands on the big one.

Photo: Alberto Pizzoli AFP

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Philipp Lahm

Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick said last week: "I don't understand why Lahm didn't win the Ballon d'Or." Flick had a point. The Germany international won eight Bundesligas, six DFB-Pokals and captained his country to the 2014 World Cup but never made the podium in the voting for the Ballon d'Or.

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Paulo Maldini

The AC Milan and Italy stalwart came third in 1994 and 2003 but arguably deserved the accolade at any stage of his illustrious career as one of the best defenders the game has ever seen. "If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake," he once said and there have been few if any defenders with his innate ability to read a forward's mind. Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Franco Baresi dominated the Balllon d'Or during Milan's golden period at the end of the 1980s but few would have begrudged Maldini a look-in as well.

Photo: Getty Images Getty Images

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Bobby Moore

The captain of the 1966 England side that won the World Cup, Moore was instrumental in that victory and played a big role in the final. Being anointed by Pelé as the greatest defender the Brazilian had ever faced was not enough even back then to ward off "forward fever" as Bobby Charlton won the Ballon d'Or with Moore not even making the final three. He did narrowly miss out to Gerd Müller four years later though.

Photo: Getty Images Getty Images

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Roberto Carlos

Another defender to lose out in the shadow of a forward, Roberto Carlos can have few complaints about Ronaldo claiming the 2002 Ballon d'Or after banging in eight goals in Japan and South Korea. But he was still arguably the greatest left back the game has ever seen and deserved one in 1997 purely on the basis of that free kick in Le Tournoi. Who won it that year? Ronaldo again.

Photo: Shaun Botterill Getty Images

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Paul Gascoigne

The most outrageously talented English player of his generation, and arguably of any generation, Gascoigne hit his peak at the 1990 World Cup when he inspired England to the semi-finals and was fourth in the Ballon d'Or voting. A year later, he would shatter his knee in the FA Cup final but was back to his best in 1996, where had he been an inch taller he may have connected with a cross in the dying seconds against Germany to send England through to a first European Championship final. As it was, he scored one of the goals of the century against Scotland and led a 4-1 destruction of the Netherlands.

Photo: Getty Images Getty Images

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Eric Cantona

The best million quid Manchester United ever spent, Cantona had led Leeds to the title the year before moving to Old Trafford, where he made his - and Alex Ferguson's - reputation as one of the finest midfielders of all time. Voted third in the 1993 Ballon d'Or, King Eric won four Premier Leagues, two of them with the FA Cup double added, but due to a series of fallings out with the France national team organisation never really shone on the international stage and played his last game for Les Bleus in 1995. Had he stayed on until 1998... we'll never know, but France had discovered one Zinedine Zidane by then.

Photo: Shaun Botterill Getty Images

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Marco Tardelli

Incredibly, the man who scored in the 1982 World Cup final - and produced that memorable celebration - after a league title-winning season with Juventus didn't even make the podium that year. Paulo Rossi claimed the Golden Ball and Golden Boot in Spain, and thus inevitably the Ballon d'Or, but Tardelli was overlooked for Alain Giresse and his Juve teammate Zbigniew Boniek. Tardelli came in 15th.

Photo: Mark Leech/Offside Getty Images

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Andrés Iniesta

France Football apologised to Iniesta when he left Barcelona in 2018 for not giving him greater recognition, describing his absence from the list of Ballon d'Or winners as an "anomaly" and "one of the great absences in the Ballon d'Or list," adding that they could only hope he had an incredible 2018 World Cup. He did not, but France Football had its chance in 2010 to reward arguably the finest mover of a football from A to B after Spain won the World Cup and Barcelona LaLiga. But it went to Leo Messi, obviously, with Iniesta second and Xavi third.

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Dennis Bergkamp

Third place in 1992, runner-up in 1993... Bergkamp never made the final step to the Ballon d'Or with the 1994 gong being awarded to Hristo Stoichkov. Had be played for Barcelona in the era of Johan Cruyff's Dream Team, perhaps Bergkamp would have joined the list of winners, but he still set Serie A the Premier League alight at Inter and Arsenal and was without doubt a peerless forward blessed with other-worldy skill long before every football player and commentator on the planet starting describing Ronaldo and Messi as extra-terrestrials. Bergkamp was phoning home when they were still wearing nappies.

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Raúl

Had Real Madrid won the Champions League in 2000-01, as they had done the previous year and as they would the next, top scorer Raúl might have beaten Michael Owen to the 2001 Ballon d'Or on the back of a domestic and European double. Had his international career not ended prematurely before Spain's golden era, he may have won in 2008 or 2010. As it stands, that second placed finish was as close as the Real Madrid striker ever got to the big one.

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