Four Ballon D’Or winners’ last chance to win the FIFA World Cup

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema receives the Ballon d'Or award during the 2022 Ballon d'Or France Football award ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on 17 October, 2022.AFP
The 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup is just four days away. As we get closer to the biggest global celebration of the ‘beautiful game’, Prothom Alo counts down the days with some interesting facts about the upcoming edition and some fascinating tidbits about the history of the competition.

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Barcelona`s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after winning the Ballon d`Or France Football 2019 trophy at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris on 2 December 2019

The maestro from Rosario ended his long wait of winning a trophy for the Argentina national team last year, when he lifted the Copa America trophy, ending a 28-year trophy drought of the Albiceleste.

Now, the record seven-time Ballon D’Or winner has a chance to claim the one thing he is yet to achieve in his illustrious career, winning the FIFA World Cup.

Messi began his World Cup journey in 2006, falling inches short from lifting the trophy in 2014, when Argentina lost the final against Germany in the dying minutes of extra time.

Argentina did poorly in the last World Cup, crashing out of the tournament from the round of 16. But this time, they head into the tournament as one of the favourites.

The 35-year-old has already hinted that this will be his final World Cup. The Argentine magician would like nothing more than to hang up his boots in international football with the World Cup trophy in hand.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo holds the Ballon d'or trophy before the Spanish league football match Real Madrid vs FC Granada at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on January 25, 2014

When Cristiano Ronaldo took part in the 2018 World Cup, many felt that it could be the Portuguese player’s last appearance in the tournament.

But four years later, Ronaldo is still playing at the highest level in club football and will lead the charge of a promising Portuguese team in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Ronaldo, who has won five Ballon D’Or awards, second most behind Lionel Messi, has been a regular feature in World Cups since 2006.

However, his first World Cup appearance remains as his most successful one, as Portugal reached the semifinal that year, where they lost to France.

Ronaldo has already tasted international success with Portugal, winning the Euro in 2016 and the UEFA Nations Cup in 2019.

Winning the World Cup would allow Ronaldo to put the controversy surrounding his current club Manchester United behind him and take Portugal into the list of elite football nations that have lifted the biggest prize in the game.

Luka Modric (Croatia)

Real Madrid`s Luka Modric with his family and the Ballon d`Or award in Paris, France on 3 December

For 10 years, from 2008 to 2017, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo turned the Ballon D’Or award into their private property, winning five times each.

The player that ended this 10-year reign was Real Madrid’s Croatian midfielder Luka Modric.

Modric won the award in 2018, after winning the third straight UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid and taking Croatia to the final of the World Cup for the very first time.

Modric, 37, will like nothing more than go one step further in the Qatar World Cup and cement his legacy as one of the greatest footballer to ever lace up a pair of boots.

Karim Benzema (France)

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema receives the Ballon d'Or award during the 2022 Ballon d'Or France Football award ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on 17 October, 2022

Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema can count himself unlucky.

In 2018, France won the 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup, their second World Cup triumph overall. However, Benzema, arguably the best French forward at the time, wasn’t a part of the squad and hence missed the chance of being a World Cup winner.

Benzema was exiled from the French national team since 2015 owing to some off-field controversies and this cost him the chance to play a World Cup at home.

However, in 2021, Benzema was recalled to the national side and since has been regularly playing for the Les Bleus.

Benzema, the current Ballon D’Or winner, now has a chance to add a World Cup trophy to his name and also make France the only team after Italy and Brazil to win consecutive World Cups.