Pitchside Europe

The Curse of the Ballon d’Or: Why Ronaldo might regret his victory


View gallery


Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo will be popping open endless bottles of champagne as he cruises around the streets of Zurich in his stretch limo tonight accompanied by friends, family, and the all-important Ballon d'Or trophy which tells him that he was the world's best footballer in 2013.

But the Portuguese superstar might come to think of his victory as the worst possible thing that could have happened to him on Monday night.

The reason? The curse of the Ballon d'Or, the peculiar quirk of football history that suggests Ronaldo's Portugal side will flop at the World Cup in Brazil this summer.

Time and again for decades, the player crowned the finest in Europe for the 12 months preceding a World Cup year has gone on to taste nothing but disappointment a few months later at the tournament.

Ronaldinho, Roberto Baggio, Johan Cruyff, the original Brazilian Ronaldo and even Lionel Messi are just a few players who have fallen victim to the curse over the years.

Here's how the best player in the world has gone on to a dismal World Cup time and again - and scroll down to the bottom of our page for a fabulous infographic showing exactly how the Ballon d'Or's top three have done when the World Cup came around.

2010: Lionel Messi

View gallery


The diminutive Argentine was the star player in a squad of breathtaking talent in South Africa four years ago. But Diego Maradona's "quirky" managerial style put them on the back foot before and the stunning young German side brushed them aside in the quarter-finals.

2006: Ronaldinho

View gallery


The Brazilian maestro was the best player in the world and already a World Cup winner as he headed to the 2006 tournament - but his Brazil side were destroyed by Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry in the quarter-finals.

2002: Michael Owen

View gallery


The striker picked up the Ballon d'Or in 2001 after helping Liverpool to win three trophies in 2001, and when he put his country 1-0 up on Brazil in the quarter-finals it looked like he could break the curse - but Rivaldo and Ronaldinho ended the English dream.

1998: Ronaldo

In one of the strangest twists ever at a World Cup final, Ronaldo was widely reported to be missing the big match after having a convulsive fit the night before the game. He played anyway - with four goals and three assists to his name he was deemed worth the risk - but played appallingly, and France won a one-sided match.

1994: Roberto Baggio

View gallery


The Italian superstar - nicknamed 'The Divine Ponytail' - played brilliantly throughout USA '94 (apart from in the group stage loss to Ireland) as he rescued his nation with a late equaliser against Nigeria in the last-16, then scored three goals in the quarter- and semi-finals. But in the final he missed the penalty that decided the World Cup in Brazil's favour, turning his expected moment of triumph into one of disaster.

1986: Michel Platini

The Frenchman came to Mexico '86 off the back of three consecutive Ballon d'Or awards and scored as he inspired his side to an unforgettable quarter-final win over Brazil in a shoot-out (despite missing his own spot kick). But it went downhill from there, and France got dumped out by West Germany in the semis.

1982: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

The West German talisman was the best player in the world in 1981, but ended up on the losing side in the 1982 final as Italy romped to a stunning win.

1974: Johan Cruyff

The legendary Dutchman was at his very best as he led his men to five wins and a draw in the two group stages of the World Cup in 1974, and his coronation seemed certain when the Dutch went 1-0 up in the final against West Germany. It all went wrong after that, and they ended up losing 2-1.

1966: Eusebio

View gallery


The recently-deceased Portuguese legend was the best player in the world in 1965 and the best player by a mile in the World Cup in England the following year - but two goals from England's Bobby Charlton in the semi-finals ended their dream.

Click to launch



View comments (66)