10 strangest Ballon d’Or nominations of all time – from Gyan to Bouba Diop

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Quite simply, the Ballon d'Or is the greatest individual honour in world football.

Awarded annually to the game's standout player from across the globe, the prestigious accolade has been won by a long line of stellar names since it's inception in 1956.

In recent years, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated proceedings, winning all but one of the last 12 golden ball prizes, but this time around, a new name could well be taking home the trophy.

Bayern Munich's prolific Pole Robert Lewandowski is set to battle it out with Messi for the honour with the latter aiming to add to his record-breaking haul of six honours.

But while the Ballon d'Or is synonymous with football's finest superstars, some more surprising names have managed to land themselves on the coveted shortlist over the years.

While the wait is almost over to discover the identity of this year's worthy winner, Daily Star Sport takes a look at some of the Ballon d'Or's more peculiar nominees in years gone by.

Asamoah Gyan (2010)

Perhaps more famed for his flamboyant dance moves than for being one of the world's deadliest strikers, Asamoah Gyan received a surprise nomination off the back of his fine performances at the 2010 World Cup.

Ghana's record goalscorer netted three of his 51 career goals for the Black Stars during the tournament in South Africa and finished in a commendable 18th place during that year's Ballon d'Or voting.

After attracting such global attention, where did his World Cup and Ballon d'Or exploits land him a move to later that summer, I hear you ask. Sunderland. Enough said.

Antonios Nikopolidis (2004)

Greece didn't just stun Europe, but the whole world when they upset the odds by claiming glory at Euro 2004 and the shocks kept on coming as goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis then found himself in the running for the award of greatest footballer of that year.

The legendary stopper eventually placed 24th in the finals standings, but only finishing one spot below that man Zidane again will forever be pretty impressive bragging rights.

A mega-money move never did transpire off the back of his Euro heroics as Nikopolidis spent all of his career in his homeland with Panathinaikos and Olympiacos, playing into his forties.

Yoann Gourcuff (2009)

Who is the strangest name to ever be nominated for the Ballon d'Or? Let us know what you think in the comments section

Tipped as the heir to a certain Zinedine Zidane, it's fair to say Yoann Gourcuff failed to live up to the heady early hype.

The Frenchman will always have 20th in the 2009 Ballon d'Or standings to his name though, after a stellar campaign saw the 23-year-old inspire Bordeaux to a shock Ligue 1 title triumph way back when, while on loan from AC Milan.

His simply stunning solo strike in a 4-0 win over a pre-bankrolled Paris Saint-Germain side that season was worthy of the nomination alone, to be fair. If you haven't seen it, go and watch it.

Cris (2005, 2006)

If you thought one Ballon d'Or nomination for Brazilian centre back Cris was a shock, try computing two.

Yes, that's right. The defender who largely spent his career in France with Lyon received back-to-back nominations in 2005 and 2006 with his club side at the peak of their powers domestically.

A combined total of zero votes over the two years makes for poor reading, but at least the man dubbed 'the Policeman' has his four successive Ligue 1 titles to fall back on. Cop a load of that.

Younis Mahmoud (2007)

Remember this guy? Didn't think so.

Perhaps the most obscure name ever to be nominated for the illustrious honour of the Ballon d'Or, Mahmoud is the only Iraqi footballer in history to have found himself on the shortlist.

After firing his nation to the Asian Cup in 2007, Mahmoud, who spent his whole career playing in the middle east, finished 29th in the Ballon d'Or standings after receiving a staggering two votes.

The tally meant the striker outscored the likes of Samuel Eto'o, Ryan Giggs, Carlos Tevez, Robin van Persie and David Beckham. Simply baffling.

Theodoros Zagorakis (2004)

Greece's shock Euro 2004 triumph dominated the headlines that year and their players dominated the Ballon d'Or shortlist, with no fewer than six names staggeringly making the cut.

Captain Theodoros Zagorakis raised aloft the illustrious European Championship trophy after a dramatic 1-0 win over hosts Portugal in the final and wasn't far off lifting the Ballon d'Or either.

The AEK Athens man actually finished fifth that year with AC Milan's Andriy Shevchenko taking home the honour ahead of Deco, Ronaldinho and Henry.

Papa Bouba Diop (2002)

Long before Sadio Mane arrived on the scene, Papa Bouba Diop established himself as the hero of Senegal back in 2002.

Honoured with the nickname of 'The Wardrobe' during his time in the Premier League with Fulham, the midfield man mountain finished 21st in the Ballon d'Or standings that year, alongside compatriot El Hadji Diouf, after the pair inspired Senegal to a shock World Cup quarter-finals run.

Diop bundled in a historic winner against hosts France during the tournament and perhaps more impressively scored again at the Ballon d'Or, this time with the voters, which is more than can be said for the likes of Claude Makelele, Francesco Totti and Iker Casillas in 2002.


Hatem Trabelsi (2003)

In a year that saw Pavel Nedved pip Arsenal's Thierry Henry to the game's most iconic individual honour, Tunisia's Hatem Trabelsi also found himself on the Ballon d'Or shortlist.

As well as failing to win a trophy in 2003 on his way to a surprise nomination, Trabelsi also failed to receive any votes in the Ballon d'Or's scoring.

It wasn't all bad news though as despite his tally of zero, Trabelsi still drew with Andrea Pirlo, Beckham and Brazilian legend Ronaldo. Not bad company to keep.

Emmanuel Olisadebe (2001)

Believe it or not, there was a time when Portsmouth flop Emmanuel Olisadebe was mentioned in the same breaths as football's elite after once finding himself in the running for the Ballon d'Or.

The Nigerian-born Polish international may have failed to find the net in either of his two appearances on the south coast but did strike seven times in eight World Cup qualifiers to earn his spot on the shortlist back in 2001.

Michael Owen became only the fourth Englishman to claim the award that year, but Olisadebe did finish higher than Owen's Liverpool and England teammate Steven Gerrard, as well as the likes of Roberto Baggio and Cafu.

Yuri Zhirkov (2008)

Former Chelsea full-back Yuri Zhirkov is another peculiar name who was shortlisted after impressing at a major tournament for his nation.

At Euro 2008, Zhirkov was instrumental for a stunning Russian side that made it all the way to the semi-finals, but that year's Ballon d'Or voting didn't go as successfully, with Zhirkov one of five players to finish pointless.

The 38-year-old may have been released by club side Zenit in the summer just gone after seeing his contract expire, but the full-back is yet to announce his retirement as he presumably holds out hope of getting another second crack at winning football's top individual honour.

  • Premier League

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