African All Stars

Ballon d’Or: Which African players have received votes?

11:00 EAT 29/11/2021
Finidi George - Ajax
Since African players became eligible for the Ballon d’Or in 1995, which of the continent’s stars have received votes?

  • George Weah AC Milan

    George Weah

    To date, the only African player to ever win the Ballon d’Or, Weah clinched the award in 1995—the first year that the prize was opened to non-European players.

    In that year, he defeated Jurgen Klinsmann—in second place—by 144 votes to 108, and would also pick up 13 votes the year afterwards.

  • Nwankwo Kanu & Finidi George lift UCL in 1995

    Finidi George

    One of the players defeated by Weah in 1995, Finidi actually picked up six votes that year—the only occasion when the Nigeria wideman would receive any Ballon d’Or recognition.

    This return left him level with Franco Baresi down in joint-21st in the rankings, and ahead of the likes of Roberto Baggio and Ronaldo.

    1995 was arguably Finidi’s peak year, as he clinched five titles with Ajax, including the Champions League and the Eredivisie.

  • Anthony Yeboah

    Tony Yeboah

    A Golden Boot winner in both England and Germany, Yeboah received five votes in 1995 as he made an excellent early impact at Leeds United.

    The Ghana international scored 24 goals in his first 40 league appearances in England, and was twice named the Premier League Player of the Month in 1995.

  • Nwankwo Kanu - Ajax

    Nwankwo Kanu

    A year after Finidi had received his only Ballon d’Or vote, Kanu was also in the running for the prestigious award, having scored 13 goals in 30 Eredivisie matches before securing an ill-fated move to Internazionale.

    He received 14 votes in the 1996 Ballon d’Or voting, putting him ahead of the 1995 winner Weah, and above the likes of Gabriel Batistuta, Raul and Didier Deschamps.

    In 1999, he received two further votes, putting him level with Ronaldo and Hernan Crespo.

  • Victor Ikpeba

    Victor Ikpeba

    1997 was a year to remember for Ikpeba, the Prince of Monaco, as he became a Ligue 1 winner with the Club of the Principality.

    He received two votes in the Ballon d’Or—the only African player to do so—and also won the African Footballer of the Year award.

  • Bouba Diop Senegal 2002

    El-Hadji Diouf & Papa Bouba Diop

    2002 was Senegal’s year.

    They may have fallen just short in the Africa Cup of Nations, but they followed up their run to the final in that competition by reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup—at the time, only the second African nation to do so.

    Diouf and Diop—both on whom received two votes in the Ballon d’Or voting—were among the key figures in those tournaments.

    The former, in particular, excelled on the fields of Japan and South Korea, while the latter netted the winner as Senegal defeated reigning world and European champions France 1-0 in the World Cup opener.

  • Samuel Eto'o Barcelona 2009

    Samuel Eto’o

    He may have never won a Ballon d’Or, but Eto’o received votes in eight separate years, and was nominated—but received no votes—on two further occasions.

    In 2004—the first year in which he picked up points—he received seven votes—and would make the standings every season for the next eight campaigns.

  • 2fe83adb584fef644ac392c779d8e3374cc5518c

    Didier Drogba

    Drogba, like his rival Eto’o, also received votes for the first time in 2004, tying with the likes of Frank Lampard and Gianluigi Buffon on five points.

    The Ivorian powerhouse—a Champions League winner with Chelsea in 2012—also matched Eto’o in receiving votes in eight years.

    Intriguingly, Drogba’s best year was 2007, when he finished fourth behind Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi, and not his European Cup-winning campaign.

  • Michael Essien West Ham v Chelsea Premier League 11092010

    Michael Essien

    Drogba’s Chelsea teammate Essien received votes in two separate years; 2005 and 2007.

    2005, of course, was the year when the Bison ended his time in France at Olympique Lyonnais, with a Ligue 1 winner’s medal, before moving to Chelsea where he’d go on to clinch another title in 2006.

    In terms of performances, however, perhaps 2006-07 was Essien’s zenith; he was named Chelsea’s Player of the Year, Ghana Player of the Year, and won two domestic cups.

    It’s tantalising to imagine what he could have achieved over the subsequent years had injury not intervened.

  • Frederic Kanoute Sevilla

    Fredi Kanoute

    One of Africa’s underrated modern greats, Kanoute received his one and only Ballon d’Or nomination in 2007.

    He finished a respectable 11th on the ballot, ahead of former winner Ronaldinho and Steven Gerrard, but with a fraction of the votes of eventual winner Kaka.

    This was arguably the Mali international’s finest year, as he won a cup treble with Sevilla and became the first player born outside Africa to win the African Footballer of the Year award.

  • Emmanuel Adebayor Arsenal

    Emmanuel Adebayor

    In 2008, it was the turn of another fine African striker—Adebayor—to receive his one and only Ballon d’Or nomination.

    This was the year when the Togo frontman enjoyed the most productive campaign of his career, netting 24 goals in 36 league appearances for Arsenal as they finished third in the top flight and reached the Champions League quarter-finals.

  • Yaya Toure Manchester City

    Yaya Toure

    Nominated for the Ballon d’Or on five occasions between 2009 and 2015, Yaya established himself as the finest African midfielder of his generation and rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s top stars—in the tier just below Ronaldo and Messi—during his time at Manchester City.

    In 2009, while still at Barcelona, Toure secured his only Champions League title—and received his first Ballon d’Or nomination.

  • Asamoah Gyan Germany Ghana World Cup 2014 Group G 06212014

    Asamoah Gyan

    Another African striker whose finest year was rewarded with Ballon d’Or votes.

    For Gyan, whose club career has left a lot to be desired, 2010 represented the pinnacle of his career, as he made an unforgettable contribution to Ghana’s World Cup campaign as the Black Stars reached the quarter-finals in South Africa.

    Unfortunately, Gyan has never subsequently been able to truly recapture the magic of that summer.

  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Borussia Dortmund

    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

    As Yaya stepped down from the limelight at Manchester City, as Pep Guardiola swept into the Etihad Stadium on a wave of new ideas, Aubameyang stepped into his place as Africa’s pre-eminent global star.

    The Gabon international has featured in the Ballon d’Or rankings on three occasions, beginning in 2016, the same year he won the Bundesliga Player of the Year award.

  • Sadio Mane Liverpool 2019-20

    Sadio Mane

    The reigning African Footballer of the Year has made little secret of his desire to win the Ballon d’Or, and after finishing fourth on the podium earlier this year, he appears closer than ever.

    Mane, who won the Champions League last season, would surely have been a Premier League champion already were it not for Covid-19, and still only 27, could yet have his best years ahead of him.

    The Senegal superstar has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or in the last three years.

  • Mohamed Salah Liverpool

    Mohamed Salah

    Salah has finished fifth in the Ballon d’Or rankings in the last two years, and like Mane, may yet have the chance to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

    However, he may never get a better opportunity than in 2018, when he enjoyed a record-breaking maiden season in Liverpool and inspired the Reds to the Champions League final.

    Had injury not brought a premature end to that final against Real Madrid—and overshadowed his World Cup—might Salah have finished a little higher in the standings?

  • Kalidou Koulibaly Napoli 2018-19

    Kalidou Koulibaly

    A regular feature in the Serie A Team of the Season, and the division’s reigning Defender of the Year, Koulibaly made the Ballon d’Or standings in 2019 for the first—and to date only—time.

    It was a magnificent achievement for the Napoli centre-back, who became the first African defender ever to receive any votes for the finest individual prize in the game.