Golden Ball award WINNERS in every World Cup (1984-2018)

Playing at the world cup is a dream for every player. Golden Ball is a dream of every world cup player. The Golden Ball is presented to the best player of the World Cup tournament. Who does not likes to be the best at a tournament like World Cup? Right? Well, Golden Ball was introduced in the 1982 FIFA World Cup, sponsored by Adidas and France Football. Football Devils presents all the winners of the Golden Ball till now.

World Cup Golden Ball winners
World Cup Golden Ball winners

Paolo Rossi (1982)

The first World Cup in which the Golden Ball was introduced was hosted by the country Spain. Italy was the Champions of the World and Paolo Rossi played an important role in the team. Italy came through a very difficult journey in which his team was to face Argentina, the reigning World Champions, and Brazil, the favorites to win the title.

Paolo Rossi in action for Italy in World Cup 1982
Paolo Rossi in action for Italy in World Cup 1982 Source: Getty Images

Italy defeated Argentina 2–1, partly thanks to the defensive work that shut down the young Argentine star Diego Maradona. Rossi scored a hat-trick to defeat Brazil 3–2 to qualify for the semi-finals. In the semi-final match against Poland, Rossi’s two goals won the match for Italy once again, granting them a place in the 1982 World Cup final.

In the final against West Germany, Rossi scored the first of Italy’s three goals, helping the team win the match 3–1, giving Italy their third World Cup title. With six goals in total, he won the tournament’s Golden Boot, as the top scorer of the tournament, as well as the Golden Ball Award for the best player of the tournament.

Rossi’s accomplishments in Spain gained him the title of European Footballer of the Year and World Player of the Year in 1982, as well as the 1982 Onze d’Or Award. His goalscoring exploits during the tournament earned him the nicknames “Pablito” and the “torero”

Between his goals and assists throughout the tournament, Rossi was directly responsible for 58% of his team’s goals during the 1982 World Cup.


Diego Maradona (1986)

Diego Maradona was widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. In the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, he captained the Argentine national team to victory against West Germany in the final.

Diego Maradona lifting 1986 World Cup trophy
Diego Maradona lifting the 1986 World Cup trophy Source: Getty Images

Throughout the tournament, Maradona asserted his dominance and was the most dynamic player in the competition. He played every minute of every Argentina game, scoring five goals and making five assists. His first goal of the tournament came against Italy in the second group game. Maradona scored two contrasting goals in the 2–1 quarter-final win against England, his legend was cemented. 

The majesty of his second goal and the notoriety of his first led to the French newspaper L’Équipe describing Maradona as “half-angel, half-devil”. In a game, the first goal was scored by striking the ball with his hand. It became known as the “Hand of God”.

Maradona scored or assisted 10 of Argentina’s 14 goals (71%), including the assist for the winning goal in the final, ensuring that he would be remembered as one of the greatest names in football history. 

By the end of the World Cup, Maradona went on to win the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament by unanimous vote and was widely regarded to have won the World Cup virtually single-handedly, something that he later stated he did not entirely agree with.


Salvatore Schillaci (1990)

In the World Cup hosted by Italy in 1990, Salvatore Schillaci was awarded the Golden Ball for being the best player in the tournament. He led his country, Italy to the semifinal of the tournament. Italy was eliminated after a penalty shootout against defending champions Argentina.

Salvatore Schillaci (Italy) celebrating goal against Austria
Salvatore Schillaci (Italy) celebrating a goal against Austria Source: Masahide Tomikoshi

Schillaci scored the only goal during Italy’s first match against Austria coming as a substitute as the match ended with a 1–0 win for Italy. Schillaci started alongside Baggio in Italy’s round of 16 and quarter-finals matches of the knock-out stages, opening the scoring against Uruguay and the Republic of Ireland respectively.

For the semi-final match against defending champions Argentina, Gianluca Vialli replaced Baggio in the starting line-up, whereas Schillaci kept his place in the team. The match ended 1–1, with Schillaci scoring his fifth goal of the tournament, but Italy was eliminated after a penalty shoot-out, in which he controversially refused to take a penalty, stating injury as the reason for his choice.

Schillaci scored the winning goal in Italy’s 2–1 win in the third-place match against England from a penalty. With six goals scored in the competition, he won the Golden Boot as well as the Golden Ball for the best player in the tournament.


Romario (1994)

The 1994 World Cup was hosted by the United States which Brazil won in the final against Italy. Romário won the World Cup Golden Ball as the most valuable player of the tournament and was named to the World Cup All-Star Team. Romário is also the last player to have won the Golden Ball and the World Cup in the same tournament.

1994 World Cup Golden Ball winner Romario celebrating goal
1994 World Cup Golden Ball winner Romario celebrating goal Source: FIFA

Brazil played the first seven matches of the 1994 World Cup qualification without Romário and suffered their first loss ever in World Cup qualifying against Bolivia. Brazil had to beat or tie Uruguay to finish first in their group. Before the game, Romário stated:

I already know what is going to happen: I’m going to finish Uruguay.

Brazil won 2–0, with Romário scoring both goals, and qualified for the World Cup. Romário scored five goals in the tournament: one in each of the three first-round matches, against Russia, Cameroon, and Sweden. He scored one against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals and the game-winning header against Sweden in the semifinals.

Although he did not get on the scoresheet in the final in Los Angeles against Italy, a game played in searing heat which ended as a goalless draw, he converted Brazil’s second penalty in the shoot-out, which ended in a 3–2 win for Brazil.


Ronaldo (1998)

Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, commonly known as Ronaldo is one of the greatest strikers in football history. His performance in the World Cup 1998 was one of the best execution. Ronaldo was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament for his performances leading up to the final and finished the tournament as the joint-third highest scorer.

1998 World Cup Golden Ball winner Ronaldo (Brazil)
1998 World Cup Golden Ball winner Ronaldo (Brazil) Source: Getty Images

Ronaldo scored four goals and made three assists en route to the final, scoring once and assisting Bebeto’s goal in a 3–0 win against Morocco in the team’s second group stage match, netting twice in a 4–1 win against Chile in the round of 16, set–up two goals in Brazil’s 3–2 victory over Denmark in the quarter-finals, and scored once in the 1–1 draw against the Netherlands in the semi-finals, also netting Brazil’s first penalty in the 4–2 shoot–out the victory.

Hours before the final against France, Ronaldo suffered a convulsive fit. At first, he was removed from the starting lineup 72 minutes before the match, and the team sheet was submitted to the FIFA delegate. The starting lineup without Ronaldo was released to stunning world media. Brazil lost the match to hosts France 3–0. Ronaldo later reflected:

We lost the World Cup but I won another cup – my life.


Oliver Kahn (2002)

Oliver Kahn, one of the greatest goalkeepers in the history of football won the golden ball at the 2002 World Cup hosted by Japan and South Korea. Kahn is the only goalkeeper in World Cup history to win the Golden Ball, and also became the first German goalkeeper to keep five clean sheets in a World Cup tournament.

Oliver Kahn celebrating a save during World Cup 2002
Oliver Kahn celebrating a save during World Cup 2002. Source: FIFA

Despite Germany’s comparatively low expectations when for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, the team advanced to the finals; Kahn conceded only three goals in the course of the competition, two of which were in the Final. 

Playing the final match with torn ligaments in his right ring finger, Kahn conceded the first goal by fumbling a rebounded shot from Rivaldo to the feet of striker Ronaldo in the 67th minute.

Once the game was over with Brazil as the new champion, he stood alone and was disappointed in his goal; nevertheless, he refused to blame his injury for his mistake. 

The FIFA Technical Study Group awarded him with the Lev Yashin Award for the best goalkeeper of the tournament, while also edging out tournament top scorer Ronaldo to receive the Golden Ball for the best individual performance.

Also Read: African Footballers who changed Nationality 


Zinedine Zidane (2006)

Zinedine Zidane, popularly known as Zizou is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. He was a playmaker renowned for his elegance, vision, passing, ball control, and technique. Zizou led his team to the final of the World Cup in 2006 hosted by Germany but couldn’t win. France lost to Italy in a 5-3 penalty shootout.

Zinedine Zidane in action at World Cup 2006
Zinedine Zidane in action at World Cup 2006 Source: Getty Images

France struggled to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. At the urging of coach Raymond Domenech, Zidane came out of retirement and was immediately reinstated as team captain. He scored his first goal of the tournament in the second round match against Spain.

In the final against Italy, seven minutes into the 2006 World Cup final in Berlin, Zidane put France ahead with a Panenka-style penalty kick which struck the crossbar and bounced just over the goal line to become only the fourth player in World Cup history to score in two different finals, along with Pelé, Paul Breitner, and Vavá.

Zidane was then sent off in the 110th minute of the game after headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest, so he did not participate in the penalty shootout which Italy won 5–3. The day after the final, Zidane was awarded the Golden Ball as the player of the tournament.


Diego Forlán (2010)

Diego Forlán, regarded as one of the best forwards of his generation, had huge individual success at the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa, finishing as the joint top scorer with five goals, including the goal of the tournament, and winning the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.

Diego Forlan celebrating goal against Netherlands at World Cup 2010
Diego Forlan celebrating a goal against the Netherlands at World Cup 2010

On 16 June 2010, during Uruguay’s second group game in the 2010 World Cup against South Africa, Forlán opened the scoring with a right-footed long-range effort. On 6 July 2010, Forlán scored another long-range goal, this time with his left foot to equalize against the Netherlands in the semi-final.

Despite a half-time score of 1–1, Uruguay eventually lost 3–2 as the Dutch advanced to the final. Forlán scored for the final time in the tournament as he netted a well-executed volley from the edge of the area to give Uruguay the lead. This goal, from a pass by Egidio Arévalo Ríos, was selected by FIFA as the Goal of the Tournament. 

Forlán then hit the crossbar with the final kick of the game from a free kick as they lost to Germany 3–2 in the third-place play-off. Forlán was awarded the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. He was also picked for the team of the tournament and was the joint top scorer at the World Cup with five goals.

Also Read: Football Managers with MOST Trophies


Lionel Messi (2014)

Lionel Messi has won the golden ball for his amazing performance in the World Cup 2014 hosted by Brazil. He led his country Argentina to the final but unfortunately lost against Germany in extra time. Ahead of the World Cup in Brazil, doubts persisted over Messi’s form, as he finished an unsuccessful and injury-plagued season with Barcelona.

Leo Messi 2014 world cup
Leo Messi 2014 world cup Source: Getty Images

At the start of the tournament, however, he gave strong performances, being elected man of the match in their first four matches. Messi assisted a late goal in extra time to ensure a 1–0 win against Switzerland in the round of 16 and played in the 1–0 quarter-final win against Belgium as Argentina progressed to the semi-final of the World Cup for the first time since 1990. 

Following a 0–0 draw in extra time, they eliminated the Netherlands 4–2 in a penalty shootout to reach the final.

Billed as Messi versus Germany, the world’s best player against the best team, Substitute Mario Götze scored in the 113th minute, followed in the last minute of extra time by a free kick that Messi sent over the net, as Germany won the match 1–0 to claim the World Cup.

At the conclusion of the final, Messi was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player in the tournament. In addition to being the joint third-highest goalscorer, with four goals and an assist, he created the most chances, completed the most dribbling runs, made the most deliveries into the penalty area, and produced the most through balls in the competition.


Luka Modrić (2018)

Luka Modrić is a versatile midfielder who can play as a central midfielder, attacking midfielder, or defensive midfielder. He led Croatia to the 2018 World Cup Final in Russia, and he received the Golden Ball award for best player of the tournament.

Luka Modric (Croatia) celebrating goal at World Cup 2018
Luka Modric (Croatia) celebrating a goal at World Cup 2018 Source: Getty Images

Modrić was the captain of the 2018 World Cup. He scored in Croatia’s subsequent 3–0 win over Argentina with a long-range shot from 25 yards (23 meters), also being named Man of the Match.  

In the quarter-finals against hosts Russia on 7 July, Modrić provided an assist in extra-time for Domagoj Vida from a corner kick, and once again scored in the victorious penalty shoot-out following a 2–2 draw; he was named Man of the Match for the third time in the tournament. In the semi-final against England on 11 July, Croatia advanced to the World Cup final for the first time in their history following a 2–1 victory in extra time.

It was reported two days before the final match that Modrić ran the most miles out of any player and was third by created chances, as well as had the most dribbles per match and completed passes in the opponent’s half in his team. Although Croatia was beaten 4–2 by France in the final on 15 July, Modrić was awarded the Golden Ball for the best player of the tournament.


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