No club in world football has boasted as many world-class superstars as Real Madrid.
Zinedine Zidane, Michael Owen and Kaka all had a Ballon d’Or under their belt when they were signed by Los Blancos, but there are also plenty of all-time greats that made their legend at the Bernabeu.
On 12 occasions, a Real Madrid player has won the Ballon d’Or – a record they share with old rivals Barcelona. But eight different Madrid players have won the Ballon d’Or, which is an outright record.
Here are the eight legendary names that won football’s most prestigious individual award whilst representing the La Liga giants.
Alfredo Di Stefano (1957, 1959)
The Argentinian – who made 31 appearances for Spain – is rightly regarded as one of the greatest forwards in the history of the game, and still almost certainly the most important figure in the grand history of Los Blancos. He remains the benchmark for greatness, which for a club with the prestige of Real Madrid is quite something.
He finished runner-up in France Football’s inaugural award in 1956, with Blackpool’s Stanley Matthews coming out on top. But he won it by a landslide the following year, having played a pivotal role in Madrid retaining the newly-devised European Cup and won it a second time in 1959.
Di Stefano remained at Madrid throughout their five-in-a-row triumphs in Europe, scoring a hat-trick in the last final in 1960, a 7-3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt, in which Ferenc Puskas – curiously absent from this list – scored the other four.
Raymond Kopa (1958)
The iconic French midfielder was at Madrid for the middle three of their five-in-a-row, having featured for Reims as they were defeated by Di Stefano’s Madrid in the 1956 final.
He’d moved to Madrid by the time he was voted as Europe’s third-best footballer that year, finishing joint-third in 1957 and runner-up in 1959.
1958 was his year, having been voted the worthy winner of the golden ball after featuring alongside Di Stefano in the 3-2 victory over Milan in that year’s European Cup final.
In 2016, France Football published a Ballon d’Or reevaluation to the years in which only Europeans were eligible, offering Pele as a worthy alternative to the Kopa and Di Stefano in ’58 and ’59 – as well as in a further five years. The original winners still stand, officially.
Luis Figo (2000)
One that still stings over in Barcelona.
The Portuguese superstar had established himself as the best player in the world whilst at the Camp Nou. Which is why his move to Real Madrid remains the most contentious transfer in history – since been documented in a must-watch Netflix documentary.
Figo picked up his first and only Ballon d’Or a few months after becoming the signing that kicked off Florentino Perez’s Galacticos project. He won two La Liga titles and the Champions League during his time at the Bernabeu, while Barca went four long years without a trophy. Ouch.
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O Fenomeno became the first South American to win the Ballon d’Or in 1997, having moved to Inter for a world-record fee after an astonishingly good solitary season with Bobby Robson’s Barcelona.
A second followed in 2002 – like Figo, largely for what he did before signing with Madrid earlier in the year. He hadn’t been especially special after an injury-ravaged 2001-02 campaign with Inter, but he regained fitness and shone for Brazil as they lifted the World Cup in Japan.
Scoring both of the Selecao’s goals in the final probably sealed it. Ronaldo’s Brazil and Madrid team-mate Roberto Carlos finished runner-up.
Fabio Cannavaro (2006)
Former Madrid president Ramon Calderon borrowed a trick from his predecessor and signed a World Cup-winning megastar.
Having been Italy’s captain and symbol of their triumph in the 2006 World Cup, it was no major surprise when Cannavaro pipped his Azzurri team-mate Gianluigi Buffon to that year’s Ballon d’Or.
The centre-back wasn’t bad at Madrid, winning back-to-back La Liga titles in his first couple of years with the club, but he was never quite as good as he was for his national team that unforgettable summer in Germany.
Here’s Fabio Cannavaro winning two consecutive big headers about 20 yards apart, with about three seconds in between, to set up Del Piero’s 120th minute goal against Germany in the 2006 World Cup semi-finals.
Il Muro di Berlino.pic.twitter.com/DNMHo6Krlr
— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) January 21, 2022
Cristiano Ronaldo (2013, 2014, 2016, 2017)
The Ballon d’Or holder when Madrid signed him for a world-record fee from Manchester United in the summer of 2009, Ronaldo had to bide his time at the Bernabeu, watching on and frequently finishing runner-up as his eternal rival Lionel Messi won it in four successive years.
Ronaldo was prolific from the moment he arrived, but silverware wasn’t quite as forthcoming as the goals. Madrid actually went trophyless in 2012-13, but Ronaldo’s stratospheric goal tally – 34 in the league, 55 in all competitions – saw him rewarded with a second Ballon d’Or after there was no one obvious standout figure from Bayern Munich’s treble winners.
He went on to lift the golden ball a further three times over the following four years, a period in which he became Madrid’s all-time top goalscorer, won the European Championship with Portugal and three Champions Leagues with Madrid. Only Messi – naturally – broke his stranglehold, having won it after starring in Barcelona’s 2014-15 treble.
Luka Modric (2018)
Ronaldo might’ve felt he was on for a fifth Ballon d’Or in six years after winning the Champions League yet again in 2018.
But Madrid team-mate Modric stole his thunder at that summer’s World Cup, putting in a series of spellbinding performances as Croatia upset the odds to finish runners-up.
The first player not named Messi or Ronaldo to win the award since Kaka in 2007, worthy winner Modric threw shade at the pair for not attending the ceremony after it became clear they wouldn’t win.
“I cannot say why someone did not attend – that’s their choice, that is logical, is it not?” he said.
“It turns out these choices and trophies only have value when they get them. It is not fair to their playing colleagues, or to the voters who have nominated them for the past 10 years – nor for football or supporters.”
Karim Benzema (2022)
The Frenchman played second fiddle for nine years at Madrid, eventually shining in the spotlight after Ronaldo’s departure in 2018.
At the age of 34, Benzema produced the season of his career, finishing as the top scorer in La Liga (27 goals) and the Champions League (15 goals) as Madrid completed a rare double. From there, the Ballon d’Or was never in doubt.
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