Diego Maradona and Pele: How many Ballon d'Or titles should World Cup legends have won?

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The Ballon d'Or is regarded by many fans as the most prestigious individual accolade in the sport.

Tracing back to the 1950s, the trophy dished out by France Football every year is designed to crown the world's best footballer within the specifications of the accolade at the time.

We point out that detail because the Ballon d'Or hasn't always been open to every football on the planet and actually started out as a plaque reserved for European players.

Ballon d'Or history

It was not born out of discrimination, we hastened to add, rather that the communication and technology of the time meant that it was difficult to regularly monitor football elsewhere in the world.

Naturally, footballers from South America, Africa, Asia and so on would be visible to the planet at each FIFA World Cup, but their performances every week were far more difficult to monitor.

In fact, it wasn't until 1995 that the Ballon d'Or broadened its horizons to European-based players regardless of their nationality and then to the world as a whole in 2007.

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The legend of Maradona

As a result, some of the greatest footballers of all time are without the Ballon d'Or trophy you'd otherwise have expected them to win because they weren't from a European country.

Now, this week, of all weeks, probably brings one name to mind immediately: Diego Maradona.

The sporting world is still mourning the death of the legendary Argentinean after his passing at the age of 60 and there can be no denying that his talents deserved hatfuls of Ballon d'Or trophies.

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Pele and Maradona Ballon d'Or titles

The same can also be said of Brazil's Pele who, alongside Maradona, makes up what must surely be the finest none-European footballers spanning the era before France Football altered the rules.

But credit to the French publication because in recent years, they have looked in their rear-view mirrors and wondered exactly how many Ballon d'Or titles Maradona and Pele ought to have.

And as we continue to honour the memory of Maradona, it only made sense for us to look back on this retrospective action highlighted in a France Football article as recently as October.

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7 for Pele, 2 for Maradona

It opines that Pele should have won an astonishing SEVEN Ballon d'Or trophies (1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1970), therefore eclipsing Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's totals.

It goes without saying that Maradona would usurp Igor Belanov as the 1986 winner due to his heroics at that year's World Cup, inspiring Argentina to victory with five iconic goals in Mexico.

But France Football also argues that Maradona should have won the 1990 plaque, too, ahead of Lothar Matthaus after guiding Napoli to a glorious Serie A title and his nation to a World Cup final.

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More competition for Maradona

So, that's seven for Pele and two for Maradona... that doesn't seem quite right, does it?

Well, France Football do point out that Maradona faced far more competition in his era from players like Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Michel Platini and Marco van Basten than Pele did in his time.

So, be sure to take the selections with a pinch of salt, but it goes without saying that, regardless of the years and quantities, that Maradona and Pele were Ballon d'Or-worthy players without doubt.

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