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The complete list of 2000s Ballon d’Or winners may be dominated by the Galacticos, but the decade ended with two champions that ended up becoming record breakers.
After our earlier look at 1990s Ballon d’Or winners, we now go past the millennium fireworks and into the noughties. It was a decade best remembered for the iPhone, Facebook and even Taylor Swift (her debut album was in 2006!), but it also heralded the birth of what would become the greatest footballing rivalry of the generation.
Notable 2000s Ballon d’Or winners
Michael Owen (2001)
The young striker became the first Englishman to win the award since Kevin Keegan in 1979, and the first Liverpool player ever to take home the coveted trophy. It came after his goals fired them to a cup treble in the 2000/01 season.
Most memorably was at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff where he scored twice late on to snatch the FA Cup for the Reds out of the hands of Arsenal. He had started the 2001/02 season at a cracking pace too, with nine league goals by the time the awards ceremony took place.
The Brazilian who always played with a smile on his face was at the peak of his Barcelona career in the 2004/05 and 2005/06 seasons. In 2005 he celebrated a La Liga title with the Culers and a Confederations Cup win with Brazil.
He was instrumental in the Clásico of November 2005, scoring twice at the Santiago Bernabeu in a 3-0 demolition that had the home fans waving white handkerchiefs as a mark of respect. Only Diego Maradona had received such an ovation from the Madrid fans while wearing the iconic Blaugrana shirt.
A rare win for a defender, and a first win for an Italian while playing outside of his home country, this edition showed the importance of the World Cup for voters. It was the Azzurri’s triumph in Berlin that had also catapulted goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon into second place.
At the time of voting, Cannavaro had won Serie A with Juventus, although that title would later be awarded to Inter Milan after the Calciopoli scandal. He was already part of the Real Madrid squad when the award was given, joining the Galacticos to win the league in 2006/07 after Juventus’ forced relegation as punishment.
Cristiano Ronaldo (2008)
Sir Alex Ferguson’s young winger from Sporting Lisbon had matured into a world beater by the time he won the 2008 award. He had been close the year before, finishing second to Kaká, but this time there was no debate.
He began the year with his first Manchester United hat-trick, in a 6-0 win against Newcastle on 12 January, and finished the season with the Premier League Golden Boot. He helped the Red Devils to Champions League glory in Moscow too, scoring in the final, and won the World Club Cup to cap off an outstanding year.
Lionel Messi (2009)
Lionel Messi followed in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo, winning the 2009 Ballon d’Or for the first time after finishing second the year before. The Argentine star had a stellar season, guiding Barcelona to an unmatched sextuple – in other words, they won everything in sight.
In the league, he tallied 34 goal contributions across 31 games, while he scored in the victorious Champions League final against holders Manchester United.
Additionally, Messi netted in the Copa del Rey final and the extra-time winner in the FIFA World Club Cup. Everything the pulga touched turned to medals, meaning that it was fitting he would earn the highest individual award for himself.
Flash forward 14 years and another six awards, and he is still as game as ever despite his age. A World Cup triumph in 2022 has put him as the runaway favourite to lift an eighth Ballon d’Or on Monday evening, despite stern competition from 2022/23 PL goal king and treble winner Erling Haaland.
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