The 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup is right around the corner and a couple of players who have been named the best player of the tournament are back as well as some who have been in contention for the award.
The Golden Ball has been awarded to the best player of the World Cup for each tournament since 1982, when it was Italy’s Paolo Rossi who led the squad to their third win. It came over West Germany.
No player has won the award more than once. A list of options is chosen by the FIFA technical committee and the media choose from those options. The runner-up is given the Silver Ball and the third-place winner is given the Bronze Ball.
Luka Modric of Croatia and Lionel Messi of Argentina are previous winners who have won the award and are playing in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Read below for a list of Golden Ball winners.
2018: Luka Modric, Croatia
Modric helped lift Croatia out of a tough Group D with Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria as competitors. He played key minutes for the team’s victories over Russia and England in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. Croatia lost to France in the finals but Modric was named the Golden Ball winner. He had two goals and an assist in 691 tournament minutes.
2014: Lionel Messi, Argentina
Messi is one of the most decorated soccer players in the sport’s history. He added to his trophy case with the Golden Ball award in 2014. He had four goals and an assist that helped him land the award. It was a valiant effort after an injury-plagued season with Barcelona. He led Argentina to a World Cup final, but the team would lose to Germany.
2010: Diego Forlan, Uruguay
Forlan is one of the most notable Uruguayan players of all time. His goal against Ghana sent the quarterfinal to a shootout and led to a penalty win over the African nation. The team lost in the semifinal against the Netherlands, but even with a goal against Germany in the third-place game, Uruguay still managed to lose. He had five goals in the tournament.
2006: Zinedine Zidane, France
Zidane had an infamous moment in World Cup history in the 2006 final against Italy. Having already won a World Cup with France in 1998, he made another appearance in 2006. He had three goals in the tournament and became the fourth player in World Cup history to score in two separate finals. But he would be ejected from the final against Italy in the 110th minute for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest. He didn’t participate in the penalty shootout and Italy won the final.
2002: Oliver Kahn, Germany
Oliver Kahn became the first goalkeeper to win the Golden Ball in 2002. He had five clean sheets in the tournament and allowed three goals. But two of the three came against Brazil in the final, in which Germany would eventually lose.
1998: Ronaldo, Brazil
Ronaldo helped Brazil to a second consecutive World Cup final appearance. But the team would come up short against France. Regardless, Ronaldo had a few goals for the squad to help them to the final, but a health issue before the final overshadowed the result. He didn’t play well against France but was still named the tournament’s best player.
1994: Romario, Brazil
Romario, considered to be one of the greatest soccer players of all time, was given the Golden Ball award. After finally getting the call-up to the main roster, Romario would go on to score five goals in the tournament. He scored a crucial penalty in the shootout in the final over Italy to help Brazil to a World Cup victory.
1990: Salvatore Schillaci, Italy
Schillaci was the second Italian to win the Golden Ball. He helped Italy to a third-place win over England. He had a goal in the semifinal against Argentina and nailed the game-winner in the third-place game.
1986: Diego Maradona, Argentina
Maradona added to his legend in the 1986 World Cup. The two goals against England in the quarterfinal were overshadowed by the infamous “Hand of God” score in which replays showed him gather the ball with his hand to help him. He had two goals against Belgium in the semis and helped on the game-winner from Jorge Burruchaga against West Germany in the final.
1982: Paolo Rossi, Italy
Rossi’s hat trick in the semifinals lifted Italy over Brazil in the semifinals and then his opening goal helped Italy over West Germany, 3-2. He was the first Golden Ball winner and won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top goal-scorer.