Five most controversial Ballon d’Or wins ranked – from Owen to Nedved

Monday night marks the return of the Ballon d’Or, with Lionel Messi the favourite to be crowned the world’s best footballer.

Few could argue with Messi receiving the award this year, having led Barcelona to the Copa del Rey and Argentina to the Copa America.

But the presumptive winner has not always come out of the evening triumphant, with a number of confusing winners throughout the award’s history.

Michael Owen and Pavel Nedved have both been controversial winners in past seasons as the world of football picks the best player.

Here, Daily Star Sport looks at the five most controversial Ballon d’Or winners…

5. Lionel Messi (2010)

Spain’s World Cup win was the most memorable achievement of 2010, with La Roja winning their first world title.

That led to many believing that Andreas Iniesta, the scorer of the winner in the final, or team-mate Xavi would be crowned the winner of the Ballon d’Or.

Instead, though, the award went to their Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi, with voters clearly not feeling sentimental towards Spain.

Who should win the 2021 Ballon d'Or? Let us know in the comments section…

4. Igor Belanov (1986)

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Igor Belanov’s win came during the time when only European players were considered in the Ballon d’Or.

That immediately ruled out Diego Maradona, who almost single-handedly led Argentina to the World Cup.

England striker Gary Lineker was well in the running having picked up the golden boot at the tournament, but it was instead Dynamo Kyiv striker Belanov who was victorious.

3. Pavel Nedved (2003)

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Having scored 42 goals and notched 26 assists in a calendar year, Thierry Henry was seen as the frontrunner for the 2003 Ballon d’Or.

But in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the award, it was Juventus star Pavel Nedved who was crowned the winner.

Nedved had helped Juve to the final of the 2003 Champions League, but many were still surprised the see the Czech international beat Henry.

2. Luis Figo (2000)

2000 was an incredibly controversial year for Portugal star Luis Figo, who also moved from Barcelona to Real Madrid that July.

On top of that transfer between the El Clasico rivals, Figo also claimed a surprise win over Zinedine Zidane in the Ballon d’Or.

Figo himself later admitted that he should not have received the award that year, believing it should have gone to Roma legend Francesco Totti instead.

“Sorry for stealing the Ballon d’Or in 2000 – you deserved it," he said in a message to the Italian.

1. Michael Owen (2001)

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The early Noughties were clearly the best if you were looking for Ballon d’Or controversy, with Michael Owen coming in the middle of a hat-trick of surprise wins.

Owen had scored 24 goals as Liverpool won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup, as well as starring for England in the qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup.

But many were shocked that Owen had beaten Real Madrid striker Raul to the award, with the Spaniard having fired Los Blancos to a Champions League title win.

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