10 most unlikely Ballon d'Or nominees of all time including Iraq icon who rivalled Kaka and Papa Bouba Diop

LIONEL MESSI landed an incredible SEVENTH Ballon d'Or award during Monday night's glitzy ceremony in Paris.

He now leads Cristiano Ronaldo by two in the race for the most awards, and beat Robert Lewandowski to this year's prize.

This year's nominees boasted some of the biggest names in the game, with the likes of Mohamed Salah, Kevin de Bruyne, N'Golo Kante, Karim Benzema and Jorginho all up for the trophy.

And this year's stacked shortlist is a far cry from some of the bizarre selections nominated for the prize in years gone by.

Kylian Mbappe may have looked miffed after coming ninth in the list, but at least he was higher up than some unknown players from years past.

Here SunSport take a look at the most unlikely individuals given a shot at football's most prestigious individual prize.

Younis Mahmoud

Iraqi international Mahmoud is the only player from his country ever to be nominated for the award after firing his nation to Asian Cup glory.

His nomination came in 2007, the same year that AC Milan ace Kaka landed the prize following the Champions League final victory over Liverpool.

Somehow Mahmoud actually received two votes for the gong – more than Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres, David Villa and David Beckham did in the same year.


Papa Bouba Diop

The man nicknamed 'The Wardrobe' won more votes than Claude Makelele, Francesco Totti and Iker Casillas in 2002, finishing tied 21st with El Hadji Diouf and Rio Ferdinand.

Diop helped Senegal to the quarter-finals of the World Cup that year to earn his nomination.

He sadly passed away last year, but is fondly remembered by Fulham, Portsmouth and West Ham fans for the time he spent in England.

Yuri Zhirkov

Russian international Zhirkov is best known for his time at Chelsea between 2009 and 2011.

The now 38-year-old is still playing, albeit as a free agent after leaving Zenit in the summer.

His nomination came in 2008 after he helped Russia to the semi-finals of that year's European Championships – although he didn't receive a single vote.

Asamoah Gyan

Football fans have fond memories of the Ghanian striker after he helped his nation to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup.

He managed to earn a Ballon d'Or nomination off the back of his performances, and even managed to finish a very respectable 18th place in the voting.

Yoann Gourcuff

The midfielder finished 20th on the list in 2009 and may be a name that triggers faint memories in the brains of noughties footy fans.

He helped Bordeaux to a shock Ligue 1 title that year, and even made 31 appearances for France.

Finishing in the top 20 players in the world may be a little kind though.


The Lyon centre-back was nominated for the Ballon d'Or TWICE – in 2005 and 2006.

Winning 17 caps for Brazil and helping Lyon to four Ligue 1 titles meant Cris was no mug, but he was never in danger of threatening 2005 winner Ronaldinho and 2006 Fabio Cannavaro champion to the award.

His zero combined votes in the two years that he was selected for the shortlist prove that.

Theodoros Zagorakis

Zagorakis is one of SIX Greece internationals from the historic 2004 Euros winning team that were nominated that year.

The Greek skipper and AEK Athens midfielder even managed to finish as high as FIFTH in the voting – only behind Andriy Shevchenko, Deco, Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry.

Antonios Nikopolidis

Nikopolidis is the second of the Greek contingent to make this list.

The shot-stopper also earned his nomination off the back of Euro 2004 glory and finished 24th in the standings, just one place below Zinedine Zidane.

Hatem Trabelsi

A name that Manchester City fans may remember, Tunisian Trabelsi was nominated in 2003 while at Ajax.

Pavel Nedved beat Thierry Henry to the award that year, with Trabelsi receiving… not a single vote.

Emmanuel Olisadebe

Last but not least Olisadebe was shortlisted in 2001.

He played twice for Portsmouth, although unsurprisingly not in the same year as his nomination.

That came while he was at Polonia Warsaw, but it was seven goals in World Cup qualifiers for the Nigerian born Polish international that earned him a shot at individual glory.

He failed to claim the prize ahead of Michael Owen, but did receive two votes – more than Steven Gerrard and Cafu managed.


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