The Golden Ball award is presented to the player judged as the best at each World Cup finals, as decided by the FIFA technical committee and members of the media.
The award was introduced at the same time as the Golden Boot - you can view our World Cup Golden Boot odds and tips - in 1982, with Paolo Rossi the first man bestowed with the honour and its history of past winners makes for a who’s who of World Cup greats.
With all eyes turning to Qatar for the most recent edition of the World Cup, 101 Great Goals has provided the best World Cup golden boot odds and tips.
Golden Ball Previous Winners
|World Cup||Golden Ball||Silver Ball||Bronze Ball|
|1982||Paolo Rossi||Falcao||Karl-Heinz Rummenigge|
|1986||Diego Maradona||Harald Schumacher||Preben Elkjaer|
|1990||Salvatore Schillaci||Lothar Matthaus||Diego Maradona|
|1994||Romario||Roberto Baggio||Hristo Stoichkov|
|1998||Ronaldo||Davor Suker||Lilian Thuram|
|2002||Oliver Kahn||Ronaldo||Hong Myung-bo|
|2006||Zinedine Zidane||Fabio Cannavaro||Andrea Pirlo|
|2010||Diego Forlan||Wesley Sneijder||David Villa|
|2014||Lionel Messi||Thomas Muller||Arjen Robben|
|2018||Luka Modric||Eden Hazard||Antoine Griezmann|
World Cup Golden Ball odds and tips
10) Antoine Griezmann
Antoine Griezmann has shone at major tournaments before, so will he again? At Euro 2016, he won the golden boot, scoring six times, and was named player of the tournament as France reached the final on home soil. Two summers later, as les Blues won the World Cup, Griezmann was a central figure, scoring in wins over Australia, Argentina, Uruguay and then in the final against Croatia. In total, he’s netted 42 times at international level; only Thierry Henry and Olivier Giroud have more. If the Atlético Madrid forward turns it on in Qatar, he could be a good outside bet to be player of the tournament.
He may only have 11 caps to his name, but Raphinha is a central figure to Tite’s plans. While still with Leeds United, he made his international debut in a World Cup qualifier against Venezuela, changing the game off the bench, providing two assists, in a comeback 3-1 victory. A week later, Raphinha bagged a brace against Uruguay, subsequently netting against Paraguay and twice more in September’s win over Tunisia. Now of Barcelona, Raphinha starts on the right-wing for Brazil, providing balance in an attacking trio that also features Neymar and Vinícius Júnior. Could this be a breakout tournament for the 25-year-old?
8) Cristiano Ronaldo
On top of the 32 major honours he’s won, Cristiano Ronaldo has collected four European golden shoes, three Pichichi awards and one Capocannoniere. This may be ridiculous to say, given that Ronaldo is the highest-scoring man in international football history, but the Portuguese forward hasn’t really produced his best at World Cups. Just seven of his 117 Portugal goals have been scored at the World Cup, these coming against Iran, Korea DRP, Ghana, Spain and Morocco, all in the group stages. Amazingly, Portugal haven’t won a World Cup knockout match since 2006, a key reason why their all-time top scorer is yet to net at that phase of the tournament. Given that Fernando Santos’ side are in a tough group, alongside Uruguay, Ghana and Korea Republic, the 37-year-old appears to be a long-shot to win the golden ball.
7) Vinícius Júnior
When Vinícius Júnior first arrived at Real Madrid from Flamengo, the biggest criticism thrown his way regarded his end product, or lack there of. However, these critics have since been silence, with Vini Jr. having scored 32 goals for los Blancos since the start of last season. At international level, Vinícius has actually only scored once, this coming in a World Cup qualification victory over Chile in March. But, after bagging the winner goal in the most recent Champions League Final, Vinícius will be hoping to elevate his stardom even further at this tournament.
6) Harry Kane
Will 2018 World Cup golden boot winner Harry Kane add the golden ball to his collection? In Russia, Kane scored six times as England reached the semi-finals, bagging two against Tunisia, a hat-trick in the demolition of Panama and a penalty in the victory over Colombia. Since then, he’s also collected a third Premier League golden boot, with only Thierry Henry able to boast more. At international level, Kane scored his 51st goal for England in September’s draw with Germany at Wembley. So, he needs just three more to break Wayne Rooney’s record, and will be hopeful of achieving that in Qatar. However, given that Gareth Southgate’s side are not in great form, the Three Lions could be set for an early exit, hampering Kane’s individual ambitions.
5) Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne has won 15 major honours in his career, three with Genk, two at Wolfsburg and 10, and counting, since arriving at Manchester City. He’s also been Bundesliga player of the year and Premier League player of the year twice, both in terms of the competition’s award and the PFA equivalent. All that’s missing from his collection is success at international level. To date, De Bruyne has two World Cup goals to his name, netting against USA in 2014 and in a quarter-final victory over Brazil four years later. The Red Devils reached the semi-finals in Russia, but this golden generation are yet to deliver silverware. Led by their extraordinary midfielder, will Belgium finally deliver?
Neymar has hinted that 2022 may well be his third and final World Cup, so will he go out on a high? Eight years ago, with the hopes of a nation squarely on his shoulders, Neymar bagged braces on home soil against both Croatia and then Cameroon. He suffered a back injury in the quarter-final victory over Colombia, thereby forced to uncomfortably watch the Mineiraço, as his side were smashed 7-1 by Germany. In Russia, Neymar took his tally to six World Cup goals, scoring against both Costa Rica and then Mexico. At club level, he might just be enjoying his best form at Paris Saint-Germain just now, having scored 15 goals in just 19 appearances this season. Back with Brazil, Neymar will be hoping to become his country’s all-time leading goalscorer at this tournament; he’s currently two behind Pelé's 51-year old record of 77. Will that historic moment come in Qatar?
3) Lionel Messi
Did you know, Lionel Messi has scored 785 goals in his senior career, but none of these have come in the World Cup knockout stages? Messi has scored 90 times at international level, only two men, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ali Daei have more, with six of these coming at World Cups. He scored against Serbia & Montenegro in 2006, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria in 2014 and Nigeria again in 2018. You may notice that 2010 was omitted from that list; that’s because Messi led the way in most shots without scoring at that edition. So, it would take a big upturn in Messi’s World Cup fortunes for him to leave Qatar with the golden boot. Two factors in his favour are, firstly, Argentina are actually good now and, also, la Albiceleste take on Saudi Arabia, possibly the weakest team at the entire tournament, in their opener.
2) Karim Benzema
Will the newly-crowned Ballon d’Or winner add to his growing collection of individual accolades? Karim Benzema was not part of France’s victorious 2018 squad due to, how best to put this, off-field issues. Put it this way, you don’t have to be fluent in French to translate ‘l’affaire de la sextape’. So, Benzema has only featured at one World Cup to date, scoring three times in Brazil, twice against Honduras and one in a drubbing of Switzerland. Since then, Benzema has become Real Madrid’s second-highest goalscorer of all-time, lifting the Champions League for the fifth time in June. If les Bleus are going to become the first nation since 1962 to retain the World Cup, expect Benzema to be at the forefront of their attacking threat.
1) Kylian Mbappé
Kylian Mbappé won the best young player of the tournament in Russia, so will he add to his individual accolades in Qatar? In 2018, Mbappé scored against Peru, twice against Argentina and then bagged the clincher in the final victory over Croatia, This saw him become the first teenager since Pelé in 1958 to score in a World Cup Final. Since, Mbappé has taken his tally to 28 international goals, winning 11 major honours with Paris Saint-Germain and the UEFA Nations League with les Bleus. So far this season, he’s scored 18 goals in 19 PSG appearances, so will head to the Middle East in red hot form.
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