8 players you forgot made the Ballon d’Or top 10 – from Lehmann to Man Utd flop
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It's funny to think that Karim Benzema is just the second man not called Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to win football's most prestigious individual award since 2008.
Given the dominance those two had over the trophy for a decade-and-a-half it's easy to forget that the Ballon d'Or occasionally offers up a odd mad result or two.
No one batted an eyelid at this year's top 10 list, other than the fact that Nordic goal-yeti Erling Haaland only just made the cut, but over the years some truly surprising names have managed to gate-crash it. Here, Daily Star Sport runs through eight of the most forgettable.
READ MORE: Thibaut Courtois 'doesn't understand' how he missed out on Ballon d'Or podium
Jamie Vardy – 2016
To be fair to Jamie Vardy, he's established himself as one of the Premier League's most consistent and prolific goalscorers in the years since his sole Ballon d'Or nomination in 2016, but as someone with severely limited Champions League and international experience (something Ballon d'Or voters tend to be fixated with), he's an easy one to forget.
Fresh off firing Leicester to the most unfathomable of title victories, Vardy was voted the eighth-best player on the planet six years ago, one place behind team-mate Riyad Mahrez.
Who do you think will win next year's Ballon d'Or? Let us know in the comments section below.
Diego Forlan – 2011
Diego Forlan secured a well-deserved fifth-place finish in the 2010 Ballon d'Or after scoring goals-galore for Atletico Madrid and winning the Golden Boot at the World Cup in South Africa, but you might've forgotten that he finished in the top 10 the following year too.
Despite netting just four goals in all competitions in 2011, the former Manchester United flop somehow finished seventh in the vote, ahead of the likes of Neymar, Iker Casillas and treble-winning Barcelona forward David Villa. Go figure.
Andrey Arshavin – 2008
If there's one sure-fire way to garner votes at the Ballon d'Or it's by lighting up an international tournament, and that's exactly what Andrey Arshavin did at Euro 2008.
The Russian midfielder not only landed a sixth-place finish at the award that year but also a career-defining move to Arsenal a few weeks later. Despite a strong first year or two in north London, Arshavin disappeared into insignificance shortly after, making his inclusion in the 2008 Ballon d'Or top 10 list feel peculiar looking back.
Jens Lehmann – 2006
The overarching memory we have of Jens Lehmann in 2006 is him getting sent off in the Champions League final, but the Arsenal keeper actually had a very strong year, so much so that it landed him an impressive 10th-place finish in the Ballon d'Or.
He was also voted UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year and selected in the World Cup Team of the Tournament too. Not bad for a 36-year-old.
Theodoros Zagorakis – 2004
Like Arshavin, Theodoros Zagorakis had a memorable performance at the Euros to thank for his unlikely inclusion in the Ballon d'Or top 10.
The Greece international, who captained his country to arguably the most unlikely international tournament victory of all time, was deemed the fifth-best player on the planet in 2004, with only Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry, Deco and eventual winner Andriy Shevchenko placing higher. What a world.
Yildiray Basturk – 2002
Here we go again. Turkey star Yildiray Basturk finished ninth in the 2002 Ballon d'Or thanks almost entirely to his nation's impressive showing at the World Cup.
Unlike three of his team-mates the midfielder didn't even make it into the Team of the Tournament, but that didn't stop him from pipping the likes of Michael Owen, Ronaldinho and Ruud van Nistelrooy to a top 10 Ballon d'Or spot.
Youri Djorkaeff – 1996
Younger fans will remember Youri Djorkaeff from his memorable three-year spell in Sam Allardyce's cult hero-laden Bolton squad of the early-to-mid noughties, but the Frenchman was more than just a mid-table entertainer in the 90s.
He finished ninth in the 1996 Ballon d'Or vote, a few months after being named in the Euro 96 Team of the Tournament, and sealing a high profile move to Inter Milan from PSG.
Gianfranco Zola – 1995
Gianfranco Zola was one of those players who always felt a little underappreciated, especially in Italy where a spot in the national team was often hard to come by.
In 1995 the pint-sized trickster finished sixth in the Ballon d'Or after netting 50 goals in two seasons for Parma, but left to join Chelsea less than a year later after being shunted out to the left side of midfield for some reason. At least at Stamford Bridge Zola got the credit, the respect and the adulation he thoroughly deserved.
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