The oldest Ballon d'Or winners to lift the award for the first time

Luka Modric, oldest Ballon d'Or winners
Luka Modric is among the oldest Ballon d'Or winners (Image credit: PA Images)

Who are the oldest Ballon d'Or winners ever? Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's duopoly over the award over the last 15 years – including their impressive haul on the wrong side of 30 – has slightly skewed that question.

So instead, we've dug up the oldest Ballon d'Or winners to lift it for the first time. All of these fellas were crowned the world's best (or previously, Europe's best) after they'd blown out 30 candles on their birthday cakes.

And with 34-year-old Karim Benzema topping the Ballon d'Or 2022 rankings, we have a new entry on this list...

Oldest Ballon d'Or winners: 8. Pavel Nedved, 2003 (31 years, 3 months)

Pavel Nedved, photographed while playing for Juventus in March 2003

(Image credit: Grazia Neri/Getty Images)

Nedved's award came in a year when he won his second consecutive Serie A with Juventus, and reached the final of the Champions League – only to be beaten by AC Milan on penalties in a game oft-described as the worst final in Champions League history.

Nedved himself was usually a joy to watch, however, and the fact he beat the likes of Thierry Henry and Paolo Maldini to the gong shows just how highly he was rated.

7. Alfredo Di Stefano, 1957 (31 years, 8 months)

Alfredo di Stefano

(Image credit: PA)

Di Stefano's first Ballon d'Or came in the year he lifted his third La Liga title and second consecutive European Cup title with Real Madrid.

A Blanco legend, he would go onto lift the next three European Cups, as well as five of the next seven La Liga titles – not to mention adding another Ballon d'Or to his bulging trophy collection in 1959.

6. Josef Masopust, 1962 (31 years, 10 months)

Masopust and Pele

Masopust challenges Pele at the 1962 World Cup (Image credit: Getty Images)

Josef Masopust was a midfielder who spent most of his career at Dukla Prague. His 1962 saw him lift the Czechoslovakian title (one of eight he would win in his career), and be the key player in his country's run to the World Cup final, where they were bettered only by a Pele-powered Brazil.

With the Ballon d'Or being a European-only trophy, it made sense to hand it to one of that Czechoslovakian side – and Masopust was the obvious choice.

5. Fabio Cannavaro, 2006 (33 years, 2 months)

Close-up shot of Fabio Cannavaro and the Ballon d'Or trophy, 2006

(Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)

Having captained Italy to their fourth World Cup triumph, Fabio Cannavaro became the fourth Azzurri icon to scoop the Ballon d'Or. In doing so, the legendary centre-back – who swapped Juventus for Real Madrid that summer – followed in the footsteps of Roberto Baggio, Paolo Rossi and Gianni Rivera.

4. Luka Modric, 2018 (33 years, 3 months)

Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric holds up the Ballon d'Or trophy before the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano on 15 December, 2018 at the Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain

(Image credit: Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

In 2018, Luka Modric broke Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's decade-long co-stranglehold on the Ballon d'Or. Real Madrid's Croatian midfield maestro picked up the prize at the end of a year in which he inspired Croatia to their first-ever World Cup final and won the Champions League for the fourth time with Real.

3. Lev Yashin, 1963 (34 years, 1 month)

Lev Yashin

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Russian icon Lev Yashin got his hands on the 1963 Ballon d'Or for, well, being exceptionally good with his hands. Widely regarded as the best goalkeeper the game has ever seen, he remains the only player in his position to be awarded football's ultimate individual honour.

2. Karim Benzema, 2022 (34 years, 10 months)

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema poses upon arrival to attend the 2022 Ballon d'Or France Football award ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on October 17, 2022.

(Image credit: FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Benzema lifted the big golden ball aloft after a superb season in which he won a La Liga and Champions League double with Real Madrid, and the UEFA Nations League with France.

1. Stanley Matthews, 1956 (41 years, 10 months)

Stanley Matthews pictured in 1956

(Image credit: SSPL via Getty Images)

Stanley Matthews is not just the oldest player to win the Ballon d'Or for the first time, he's also the oldest to win it, full stop – a record that's unlikely to change unless Cristiano Ronaldo has a truly blistering 2026/27 season.

The original Ballon d'Or winner, Matthews' victory came in a year that his Blackpool side was beaten to First Division title by Manchester United. Well, you can't have it all, Stan.

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Tom Hancock started freelancing for FourFourTwo in April 2019 and has also written for The Analyst and When Saturday Comes, among others. He supports Wycombe Wanderers and has a soft spot for Wealdstone. A self-confessed statto, he has been known to watch football with a spreadsheet (or several) open...

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