Football Nostalgia

How the George Weah Ballon d’Or win of 1995 made history

George Weah may now be famous for being the President of Liberia, but 28 years ago he was known for being the best footballer on the planet when he picked up the 1995 Ballon d’Or.

Weah was one of the most exciting players in world football throughout the 1990s, playing his best football at PSG and AC Milan. To this day, he remains the first and only African footballer to win the Ballon d’Or.

George Weah Ballon d’Or win of 1995 – The story

Road to glory

A European breakthrough

After impressing in Liberia and Cameroon, Weah got his big break in European football as a 22-year-old when a certain Arsene Wenger came knocking. The Frenchman was the manager of Monaco at the time and signed Weah for just £12,000.

Weah quickly became one of Monaco’s best and most important players, scoring 17 goals in all competitions in his first season at the club. This led to his first individual award – the African Footballer of the Year award in 1989. Three years later, Weah played a key role as Monaco reached the Cup Winners Cup final where they lost 2-0 to Werder Bremen.

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Rising to the top in Paris

His form for Monaco earned him a move to PSG in 1992, and Weah went from strength to strength in the French capital. He scored 23 goals in his debut campaign for the club, and followed that up with 32 goals in his next two seasons with the Parisians.

He won the Ligue 1 title in 1993/1994, but it was the following season where he grabbed the attention of the world. In a Champions League match against Bayern Munich, Weah scored one of the goals of the season as he dribbled past several defenders before unleashing a rocket past Oliver Kahn.

Weah would end that season as the Champions League’s top scorer with seven goals.

The crowning moment in Milan

Weah left PSG in the summer of 1995 to move to AC Milan, who had just reached three successive Champions League finals. It was Weah’s job to fill the void left behind by Marco van Basten, and he succeeded immediately, finishing his first season at the San Siro as the club’s top scorer as they won the Serie A title.

Six months after joining AC Milan, Weah was announced as the winner of the 1995 Ballon d’Or thanks to his performances for both PSG and AC Milan.

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How Weah won the Ballon d’Or 1995

The voting process

Weah’s 1995 Ballon d’Or win is even more impressive when considering that it was the first edition to see non-European players made eligible for the award.

A panel of sports journalists were responsible for deciding the winner, with Weah receiving 144 votes – a whole 36 more than Jurgen Klinsmann in second.

Weah’s main rivals

Weah’s main competitors for the award in 1995 were Jurgen Klinsmann and Jari Litmanen. Klinsmann had been in exceptional form for Tottenham and Bayern Munich while Litmanen was the key creative force in Ajax’s remarkable Champions League triumph.

A young Patrick Kluivert, who scored the winner for Ajax in the final as an 18-year-old, finished fifth in the voting.

George Weah Ballon d’Or win of 1995 – The aftermath

It didn’t take long for Weah to show everyone why he was voted as the best footballer in the world. In a Serie A match against Verona in 1996, the centre-forward scored his most iconic goal, running the entire length of the pitch with the ball and dribbling past countless opponents, before firing it into the back of the net.

His legacy lives on 28 years after his triumph, too, as he remains to this day the only African winner of the award. But could that all change in the coming years?

Mane Bayern shirt
Mane came close to being the second-ever African Ballon d’or winner only last year. (Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images) – Photo by Icon sport

Will there be another African Ballon d’Or winner?

The last 15 years of the Ballon d’Or have been dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with the exception of Luka Modric in 2018 and Karim Benzema in 2022. It has meant that several African superstars such as Samuel Eto’o (5th in 2009), Didier Drogba (4th in 2007) , Mohamed Salah (5th in 2019) and Sadio Mane (2nd in 2022) have missed out.

The opportunity for an African winner in 2024 does loom large, though. The African Cup of Nations takes place early next year, and the significance of international achievement cannot be understated when it comes to Ballon d’Or voting. If Victor Osimhen, for example, can lead Nigeria to glory at the upcoming AFCON, then he would certainly be in the running this time next year.

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