The Golden Ball , referred to as the European Footballer of the Year award, is an annual association football award. It is presented to the player who has been considered to have performed the best over the previous calendar year. The award was conceived by France Footballs 's chief magazine writer Gabriel Hanot , who asked his colleagues to vote for the player of the year in Europe in 1956. The inaugural winner was Stanley Matthews of Blackpool.
1999 Rivaldo Vítor Borba Ferreira (born 19 April 1972 in Paulista , Pernambuco ), commonly known as simply Rivaldo , is a Brazilian professional footballer who currently plays for Uzbeki side Bunyodkor . He is widely considered one of the finest playmakers in the modern history of the game. He most notably played five years with Spanish club FC Barcelona , with whom he won the 1998 and 1999 Spanish La Liga championship and the 1998 Copa del Rey .
2000 Luís Filipe Madeira Caeiro nickanmed Figo (born 4 November 1972) is a former Portuguese footballer who played as a midfielder for Sporting Clube de Portugal , Barcelona , Real Madrid , and Internazionale during a career which spanned over 20 years. He retired from football on 31 May 2009. He won 127 caps for the Portuguese national football team . Figo was the 2000 European Footballer of the Year , the 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year , and was named amongst the FIFA 100
2001 Michael James Owen (born 14 December 1979 in Chester ) is an English professional footballer who plays as a striker for Manchester United His first major club honours came in 2001 when Liverpool won a cup treble of the UEFA Cup , FA Cup and Football League Cup , and Owen was the recipient of the Ballon d'Or that year. He went on to score 118 goals in 216 appearances in the English Premier League for Liverpool.
2002 Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima born 22 September 1976), commonly known as Ronaldo , is a Brazilian footballer who currently plays for Corinthians and was one of the most prolific scorers in the 1990s and in the early 21st century. Ronaldo won his first Ballon d'Or as the European Footballer of the Year in 1997 and again in 2002 . He is also one of only two men to have won the FIFA Player of the Year award three times, along with French footballer Zinedine Zidane . In 2007, he was named as one of the best starting eleven of all-time by France Football and was named to the FIFA 100 , a list of the greatest footballers compiled by fellow countryman Pelé .
2003 Pavel Nedvěd born 30 August 1972 in Cheb ) is a former Czech football midfielder . He is one of the most successful Czech players to have played in a top European league, winning numerous accolades with Lazio and Juventus . Widely regarded as one of the best midfielders in the modern era, he was the recipient of the prestigious Ballon d'Or , the first Czech player since the break up of Czechoslovakia, in 2003 while at Juventus. He is known for his energy and tireless runs as well as his goal scoring ability.
2004 Andriy Mykolayovych Shevchenko born 29 September 1976) is a Ukrainian professional football striker who currently plays for Dynamo Kyiv and the Ukrainian national team . He is the fourth-highest scorer in the history of European club competition with 62 goals, behind Filippo Inzaghi , Raúl , and Gerd Müller . Shevchenko's career has been highlighted by many awards, the most prestigious of which were the Ballon d'Or in 2004 (becoming the third Ukrainian, after Oleg Blokhin and Igor Belanov to receive it) and the UEFA Champions League in 2003 with Milan . Along with this, he has won various league and cup titles in Ukraine , Italy , and England . Besides the Golden Ball, Shevchenko was awarded other individual awards.
2005 Ronaldo de Assis Moreira (born 21 March 1980 in Porto Alegre ), commonly known as Ronaldinho Gaúcho ,Is a Brazilian footballer who plays for Italian Serie A club Milan and the Brazil national team . He is widely regarded as one of the most gifted footballers of his generation. Ronaldinho, Portuguese for "Little Ronaldo," is known in Brazil by the nickname "Gaúcho," in order to distinguish him from Ronaldo , who was already called "Ronaldinho" in Brazil. Ronaldo simply went by his first name upon his move to Europe, thereby allowing Ronaldinho to drop the "Gaúcho" and remain simply as Ronaldinho.
2006 Fabio Cannavaro (born 13 September 1973 in Naples , Italy ) is an Italian World Cup -winning footballer who plays for Serie A club Juventus .  He won the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2006 , making him the first and so far only defender to win the award, as well as the oldest recipient. With 131 caps he is the all time most capped player of the Italian national team.
2007 Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite born 22 April 1982), commonly known as Kaká , is a Brazilian football midfielder who currently plays for Real Madrid C.F.  and the Brazilian national team . He started his footballing career at the age of eight, when he began playing for a local club. By then, he also played tennis,  and it was not until he moved on to São Paulo FC and signed his first professional contract with the club at the age of fifteen that he chose to focus on football. In 2003 he joined A.C. Milan for a fee of €8.5 million. While at Milan, Kaká won the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 2007. In addition to his contributions on the pitch, Kaká is known for his humanitarian work.
2008 Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro , OIH , born 5 February 1985) commonly known as Cristiano Ronaldo , is a Portuguese footballer who plays as a winger for Spanish club Real Madrid and serves as captain of the Portuguese national team . Ronaldo currently holds the distinction of being the most expensive player in football history after having transferred to Real Madrid from Manchester United in a deal worth £80 million ( € 94m, US$ 132m). His contract with Real Madrid is believed to have made him the highest-paid football player in the world.
2009 Lionel Andrés Messi born 24 June 1987 is an Argentine footballer who currently plays for La Liga team Barcelona and the Argentine national team . Messi is considered to be one of the best football players of his generation, having received several Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations by the age of 21. His playing style and ability have drawn comparisons to football legend Diego Maradona , who himself declared Messi his "successor".