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The Ballon d’Or (literally Golden Ball) was conceived by weekly French football publication France Football. The trophy is awarded annually based on votes from football journalists – it’s inaugural recipient was Stanley Matthews in 1956.
There has been some evolution during the trophy’s lifetime, firstly expanding from an award only available to European footballers, and subsequently a brief spell having merged with the FIFA Player of the Year award.
However despite these changes the criteria upon which the trophy has been awarded have remained broadly unchanged. From Matthews to George Best, Eusebio to Baggio, the recipient of the award is invariably a goalscorer or a ‘magician’.
Indeed the last 10 awards have been equally shared between Ronaldo and Messi, further evidence of the domination of attacking players.
Of the notable exceptions to this rule (most recently Italian World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro in 2006) perhaps the most interesting is Russian legend Lev Yashin who took the accolade in 1963. To this day, he remains the only goalkeeper to have won the title.
Most great coaches will tell you that title winning sides are built on a solid defence – and key to this is a commanding goalkeeper.
In recent times Schmeichel, Casillas and Buffon are just some of the great goalies upon which dynasties have been built. More recently still we have seen the rise of the ‘sweeper keeper’ with Manuel Neuer even finishing third in the Ballon d’Or running in 2014.
Given the increased importance being placed on the goalkeeper as an initiator of attacking play, as well as the last line of defence, will we see a time where a goalkeeper can emulate the great Lev Yashin and take home football’s premier individual award?
Written by Will Trattles
Follow Will on Twitter @WillTratts
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