Messi or Ronaldo: Who won most Ballon d'Or trophies? The 12 awards split between all-time greats

Messi or Ronaldo: Who won most Ballon d'Or trophies? The 12 awards split between all-time greats

The Ballon d’Or is considered the most prestigious individual award in world football.

Awarded by French publication France Football, the Ballon d’Or is a coveted trophy among the top players across the globe. Winning the Golden Ball is synonymous with being crowned the best player in the world. 

Two of the greatest players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, have dominated the award ceremony for over a decade. Since Ronaldo won his first Ballon d’Or in 2008, the two have taken turns atop the global stage.

As rivals on the field for nearly their entire careers, it’s no surprise that the two have jockeyed atop the all-time Ballon d’Or rankings.

MORE: All 30 finalists for the 2022 Ballon d’Or

Most Ballon d’Or awards: Messi or Ronaldo?

The player with the most Ballon d’Or trophies all-time is Lionel Messi who has won it seven times. Behind him is Messi’s long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo with five Ballon d’Or awards.

Together, they won an astonishing 12 Ballon d’Or awards, including 10 in a row from 2008 to 2017. During that 10-year span the pair occupied the top two places in the voting on nine occasions.

Ronaldo, however, has had more second-place finishes, finding himself as runner-up in six editions, while Messi finished second on five occasions. Of their 11 combined second-place finishes, seven came as runner-up to the other. All five of Messi’s second-place finishes came behind Ronaldo.

Messi and Ronaldo are clearly in a stratosphere of their own. Only 10 players all-time have claimed multiple Ballon d’Or awards, while just five individuals have won three or more. Nobody aside from Messi or Ronaldo has won more than three.

Ballon d’Or
Lionel Messi Cristiano Ronaldo
2004 12th
2005 20th
2006 20th 14th
2007 3rd 2nd
2008 2nd 1st
2009 1st 2nd
2010 1st 6th
2011 1st 2nd
2012 1st 2nd
2013 2nd 1st
2014 2nd 1st
2015 1st 2nd
2016 2nd 1st
2017 2nd 1st
2018 5th 2nd
2019 1st 3rd
2021 1st 6th

All-time men’s Ballon d’Or wins leaders

The first Ballon d’Or was awarded in 1956 to Blackpool legend Stanley Matthews, one of the greats of the English game.

Dutch giant Johan Cruyff became the first to win it three times in the 1970s. French star Michel Platini won it three times in a row — the first to achieve that feat — in the 1980’s.

Most recently, Messi won the 2021 Ballon d’Or, beating out Robert Lewandowski and Jorginho by a narrow margin for his seventh trophy.

Messi and Ronaldo have won 12 of the last 13 Ballon d’Or awards, with only Luka Modric capable of stopping that run in 2018. Those three are the only active players to have won a Ballon d’Or.

Rank Player Ballon d’Or
Years won
1. Lionel Messi 7 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012,
2015, 2019, 2021
2. Cristiano Ronaldo 5 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016,
3. Michel Platini 3 1983, 1984, 1985
  Johan Cruyff 3 1971, 1973, 1974
  Marco van Basten 3 1988, 1989, 1992
6. Franz Beckenbauer 2 1972, 1976
  Ronaldo 2 1997, 2002
  Alfredo Di Stefano 2 1957, 1959
  Kevin Keegan 2 1978, 1979
  Karl-Heinz Rummenigge 2 1980, 1981