MILAN – For the first time since 1956, the Ballon d’Or, a prestigious award assigned by the French news magazine France Football, was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of casting their votes for the prize of the best player from the calendar year, a panel of 140 journalists situated worldwide were invited to select the greatest eleven of all time, a Dream Team consisting of the greatest players who have taken to the pitch between 1956 and 2020.
The results are now in, and two players who won the Ballon d’Or while at Inter are included. They’re both in Inter’s Hall of Fame and truly are two of the greatest to have graced the game. They’re Lothar Matthäus and Ronaldo.
This is the Ballon d'Or Dream Team:
Lev Yashin; Cafù, Beckenbauer, Maldini; Maradona, Xavi, Matthäus, Pelé; Messi, Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Born in 1961, Lothar Matthäus’ playing career lasted from 1979 to 2000. The German was at Inter from 1988 to 1992, four seasons which saw him score 53 goals in 153 matches. With the number 10 shirt on his back, he was the complete midfielder, blessed with power and technique. In his first season in Serie A, he inspired the Nerazzurri to a record-breaking Scudetto triumph, the 13th in the Club’s history. He also won the Supercoppa Italiana and UEFA Cup while he was at the Nerazzurri.
In 1990, following West Germany’s 1990 World Cup success in Italy, France Football presented him with the prize of the Ballon d’Or. Matthäus thus become the first Inter player to win this prestigious award.
Matthäus raised the Ballon d’Or trophy to the sky at the Meazza on 10 March 1991 prior to Inter vs. Juventus (a match that the Nerazzurri won 2-0, with the German getting on the scoresheet). The stands were packed as a wonderful ceremony involving children in Inter and Germany shirts unfolded on the San Siro turf.
Matthäus is one of four players to have featured in five World Cups (the others are Antonio Carbajal, Rafael Márquez e Gianluigi Buffon), with the German having played in a record 25 World Cup games during his career. Having made 150 appearances, he remains Germany’s most-capped player. He scored 23 times for his country, who he helped to win both the European Championship and World Cup.
The Phenomenon. After initially wearing the number 10 following his arrival in the summer of 1997, he became Inter’s exceptional number 9 the following season. Born in 1976, he went on to revolutionise the world of football, combining pace and power with technique that had never been seen before. He wore the Nerazzurri shirt for five seasons and, although he suffered various injuries during his time at the Club, he was an inspirational figure in that wonderful victory in the 1998 UEFA Cup final against Lazio in Paris. His goal in that game, one of the 59 he scored in 99 Inter appearances, remains memorable.
Ronaldo got his hands on the Ballon d’Or trophy twice. In winning the 1997 edition of the award, he became the second Inter player to do so. And just like Matthäus, he proudly displayed the trophy to the Nerazzurri faithful before an Inter vs. Juventus showdown, which was played on 4 January 1998.
After Ronaldo’s Brazil triumphed at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, he became a Ballon d’Or winner for a second time. Ronaldo had spent the first part of the calendar year at Inter before moving on to Real Madrid.
In total, O Fenômeno netted 62 goals in 98 appearances for Brazil. After being named in the squad but not featuring in the Seleção’s 1994 World Cup success, he took centre stage in 2002. With a tally of 15, Ronaldo has scored the second-most goals in World Cup tournament history.