Ballon d’Or: 1995 – George Weah delivers football’s greatest individual prize to Africa

These days, the Ballon d’Or recognises the best footballer in the world in a given year. But that is a largely modern interpretation of the award and it hasn’t always been that way.

When the French journalist Gabriel Hanot, who was also the man who put forward the idea of the European Cup, conceived the Ballon d’Or in 1956, it was a prize for players from Europe and the award was accordingly widely known as the European Footballer of the Year.

Regardless of the existence of South American icons like Pele and Diego Maradona, or others like Garrincha, Socrates, Zico, Mario Kempes, Teofilo Cubillas, or the lesser internationally known Alberto Spencer, the Ballon d’Or didn’t go global until the mid-1990s.

With football truly the world’s game, France Football decided to make players from all over the planet eligible to win the Ballon d’Or for the first time.

In 2016, the magazine actually published a re-evaluation of the awards handed out from 1956 to 1994 inclusive and retrospectively recognised that Pele in particular would have been a worthy winner on seven separate occasions, although all of the original winners remained.

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