Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, CR7, Ronaldinho.
The Ballon d’Or crowns the best of the best. The cream of the crop. The GOAT(s). But every now and then a relative unknown sneaks into the nominations.
Just like Norbit earning an Oscar nomination, no one really knows how they got there. So top marks if you remember all of these seven blasts from Ballon d’Or past.
Now that’s just greedy Cristiano
Zlatko Zahovic (Nominated in 2000)
Zahovic earned more nominations than Francesco Totti, Pavel Nedved and Oliver Khan in 2000 thanks to his performances for Olympiacos and Valencia, as well as with the Slovenian national team.
While undeniably talented his career was disrupted by a tendency to fight with coaches, players and anyone else who fancied it.
But he was loved by fans wherever he went, with Jose Mourinho once saying ‘he achieved something that is almost impossible, being loved by both the fans of Porto and Benfica’.
Bixente Lizarazu (Nominated in 2001)
Name your favourite no.69. If you haven’t said Lizarazu then you need to take a long, hard look at yourself.
Lizzy the Lizard earned a nomination ahead of Alessandro Nesta, Roberto Baggio and fellow member of the left-back-stroke-winger union Roberto Carlos in 2001 while at Bayern Munich.
If you were ever wondering why he was no.69 it was because he was born in 1969, weighed 69kg and was 1.69m tall. Spooky.
He can now be found on the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu mat.
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Yildiray Basturk (Nominated in 2002)
What do Ronaldinho, Alessandro Del Piero and Luis Figo all have in common? None were considered as good as Basturk in 2002.
The Turkish schemer was coming off the back of a purple patch to end all purple patches after helping Bayer Leverkusen finish runners-up in the Champions League and Turkey come third at the World Cup.
Eight years later he was making his one and only appearance for Blackburn Rovers.
Nihat Kahveci (Nominated in 2003)
One kind soul, who we presume was Turkish, voted Nihat the fourth best player in the world in 2003.
That was the same amount of votes as Totti and more than Filippo Inzaghi or Ronaldinho.
It’s amazing what 23 goals for Real Sociedad can do for your career. To be fair, they did nearly pip the Galacticos to the title that year.
Theodoros Zagorakis (Nominated in 2004)
The year 2004 was a special one for Zagorakis, who was named Player of the Tournament at EURO 2004, after putting in a Man of the Match display in the final.
That saw three people vote him the best player in the entire world despite his reasonably average form for AEK Athens and Bologna.
By way of comparison, that was the same amount of votes as Thierry Henry, who scored 39 goals for Arsenal during the 2003/04 season.
Younis Mahmoud (Nominated in 2007)
We’ll come clean. We had to turn to Wikipedia to find out who Mahmoud was. Sorry Younis.
But it was worth the journey, as Mahmoud is the only Iraqi footballer to be nominated for the Ballon d’Or, thanks to his exploits with Al-Gharafa and Iraq.
His goals helped Iraq win the Asian Cup, where he was top scorer, and if you needed any more reasons to be a fan then it’s worth noting he loves taking Panenka penalties at every opportunity.
Marcos Senna (Nominated in 2008)
Ask any footballing hipster who was behind Spain’s decade of success and they’ll all give you the same answer. Marcos Senna.
He was the white jacket around which Spain’s artists could paint their hearts out without fear of ruining their clothes.
As hipster careers go you won’t find much better than 11 seasons at Villarreal followed by two years at New York Cosmos.