English Ballon d’Or Winners: The four Englishmen who won the famous award

Since its inception in 1956, just four Englishmen have won the Ballon d’Or. It is an incredible stat, and one that is made even more surprising when it was Sir Stanley Matthews who won it in the inaugural year.

Since then, he has been emulated by Sir Bobby Charlton, Kevin Keegan and Michael Owen. A plethora of supremely talented England internationals has not been honoured with the individual European prize, from Bobby Moore to Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer to Steven Gerrard.   

It is just a band of four to have their names on the list, whilst Keegan is the only Englishman to win the award twice. 

Jude Bellingham
Jude Bellingham harbours hopes of winning the Ballon d'Or in October – Photo by Icon Sport

English Ballon d'Or Winners – The full list

Sir Stanley Matthews

The first winner, the first English winner, an old school legend, a gentleman. Matthews won it in 1956 and all of the others have followed since.

He featured in a different era of football but was known as a skilful, pacy winger. He featured in the English top flight until he was 50, something that is unimaginable today.

To this day, he also holds the record as the oldest England player ever, representing the Three Lions one year after his Ballon d’Or triumph at the age of 42.

In 1956, he beat the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas to the award, which shows the level he was operating at.

Photo by Icon sport

Sir Bobby Charlton

Manchester United royalty, one of England’s greatest. In 1966, he won the World Cup, with his exploits going a long way to securing the  Ballon d’Or that year.

He scored twice in United’s run to the European Cup semi-finals, where they lost to Partizan Belgrade over two legs.

The Old Trafford club only finished fourth in the English First Division in ‘66, a trophyless season in which Charlton scored 15 times. 

It was an ordinary club season that turned into the extraordinary due to Charlton’s excellence and it would be crowned with that historic moment at Wembley when the Jules Rimet trophy was held aloft.

His strong form continued for some time and he was the runner-up in the next two seasons, with his United teammate George Best winning the Ballon d’Or in 1968.

Photo by Icon sport

Kevin Keegan

The third Englishman to win the trophy and the only one to win it twice.

He was a tremendous player who proved himself at home, and abroad, as evidenced by his sparking form with Hamburg SV which won him the Ballon d’Or, picking up a Bundesliga title along the way in addition to his European Cup success with Liverpool.

Keegan won the coveted Ballon d’Or in 1978 and 1979 due to his excellence in the north of Germany, where he is still revered to this day.

Younger fans today won’t know much about Keegan the player, but we would love it, really love it if you check out his exploits online.

Photo by Icon Sport

Michael Owen

From 1979 until 2001, no Englishman had been awarded the top prize until Michael Owen exploded onto the scene. 

He was a top striker who excelled for Liverpool and went on to feature for Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City. 

He represented England with distinction and to this day is the Three Lions' sixth top all-time goalscorer.

In December 2001, Owen emulated Keegan, Charlton and Matthews before him, as the Ballon d’Or recipient. It capped off a remarkable run of success at Liverpool, having won five trophies in the calendar year and all within a few months.

In the 2000/01 season, the Reds secured a unique treble, winning the League Cup, the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup (known today as the Europa League).

That was followed up with a Charity Shield win as well as a UEFA Super Cup success at the beginning of the following season with Owen front and centre in a trophy-laden spell for the Reds.

Ballon d'or trophy
Photo by Icon Sport

A brief history of the Ballon d'Or

The original Ballon d'Or, from 1956 to 2009, was organised by the renowned France Football magazine and awarded to the European Footballer of the Year.

Only European players, representing European clubs would be eligible to receive the prize meaning that superstars like Pele and Diego Maradona were not invited to the party.

That changed in 1995, when AC Milan’s George Weah, a Liberian and the current President of the African nation, became the first non-European recipient although obviously he was recognised for his exploits in Italy.

Then in 2010, the Ballon d’Or was merged with the World Player of the Year, to adopt official patronage to become the FIFA Ballon d’Or.

This move created a de facto undisputed trophy for the best player in the world, with the names of four English footballers given that honour over the years.

Will an English player win the 2024 Ballon d'or?

Current odds for the 2024 Ballon d'Or have Jude Bellingham as a second favourite (3/1 on average) behind Real Madrid teammate Vinicius Junior. This is, of course, thanks in no small part to Real's league and European double,

Toni Kroos complete's the top three, but he is quite a way behind Vinicius Jr and Bellingham. This suggests that a lot could hinge on the fortunes of England and Brazil in their respective summer tournaments.

In closing here are the latest probabilities for an England player to win the 2024 Ballon d'Or

Ballon d'Or contender
Current club
2023/24 trophies
Implied win probability

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid

🏆 La Liga, Supercopa de España, UEFA Champions League

25%

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Harry Kane

Bayern Munich

🏆 None

4.80%

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Phil Foden

Man City

🏆 Premier League, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup

3.80%

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Declan Rice

Arsenal

🏆 FA Community Shield

1%

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Bukayo Saka

Arsenal

🏆 FA Community Shield

1%

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Cole Palmer

Chelsea

🏆 None

0.5%


Experienced author and football writer Graeme Hanna, has an eternal passion for Rangers and is a long-term season ticket holder at the club.