Power Ranking Lionel Messi and Previous World Cup Golden Ball Winners

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2014

Power Ranking Lionel Messi and Previous World Cup Golden Ball Winners

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Lionel Messi might not have won the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but there was some small consolation for him in the shape of the Golden Ball award for the best player at the tournament.

    Whether or not you agree with his choice, Messi took home the trophy and thus became the third player from Argentina to do so in the 10 tournaments that the award has been running.

    Here's how Messi's performances in Brazil 2014 stack up against the other nine winners, with the tournaments from 1978 onward yielding an official recipient of best player.

    Along with the performances of the player involved, other factors such as his team's progress, their relative standing in the game at the time and quality of rival players are also considered.

10. Ronaldo, 1998

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    THOMAS KIENZLE/Associated Press

    There wouldn't have been any complaints if Ronaldo won the Golden Ball award two World Cups running after a tremendous showing in 2002, but he had to make do with just the one in '98.

    He scored four times en route to the final, which was, of course, when he suffered reported major health problems the night before the game.

    Ronaldo was the team leader and certainly a top-class talent, but it wasn't his personal best World Cup finals.

9. Diego Forlan, 2010

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Diego Forlan won the award in South Africa in 2010, helping his side reach the semi-finals and an eventual fourth-place finish.

    He was joint top scorer with five goals, though he did not win the Golden Boot as it was decided by assists in the event of a tie. Even so, his goals were spectacular and vital in equal measure, with a number of terrific efforts from outside the box.

    Forlan pushed his side further than they had been since 1970 with his efforts.

8. Mario Kempes, 1978

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    Associated Press

    Mario Kempes won the top scorer and the best player award as Argentina completed a clean sweep of trophies in their own World Cup.

    Kempes scored six times to help Argentina win the tournament on home soil, their first-ever title, with a series of offensive and dangerous displays.

    There remain questions from some onlookers about the rather large 6-0 win over Peru in the final group game which earned Argentina a spot in the final, but even then, suspicion loomed that he might not have taken the award—or Argentina the trophy—had Netherlands not been rendered Johan Cruyff-less by a kidnap attempt the year before.

7. Salvatore Schillaci, 1990

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    Martin Cleaver/Associated Press

    Toto Schillaci came into the Italy side and basically squeezed his entire international output into the 1990 World Cup, almost winning the trophy for his side along the way.

    He won the top scorer award with six goals and his vital contributions certainly made him a worthy candidate for the Golden Ball award.

    Schillaci became a national hero for his timely ability to find the back of the net, and many wonder even to this day if Italy could have gone on and won Italia '90 had he been tasked with taking a penalty in the shootout in the semi-final.

6. Lionel Messi, 2014

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Lionel Messi might not have had the big impact in the final that he wanted, but he was a big part of the reason that Argentina got as close as they did to winning the 2014 World Cup.

    He was instrumental in their progress through the group stage, scoring four times in three games and also created the goal which sent his nation past Switzerland in the round of 16.

    That was his last assist or goal in the tournament as either his fitness waned or his ability to pull a big trick out of the bag was snuffed out by savvy defences.

5. Romario, 1994

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    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Romario scored in every group game and two of the three knockout games that Brazil played at USA '94, en route to the final itself.

    Obviously he didn't find the net in the 0-0 draw there, but he put away his penalty in the shootout, finishing with five goals at the tournament. His influence on the Brazil team was clear as he spearheaded the attack to eventual World Cup glory.

4. Paolo Rossi, 1982

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    Associated Press

    Paolo Rossi came into the World Cup after a suspension finished early, enabling him to play a key role in Italy winning the '82 tournament in Spain.

    His ability in front of goal was key as he notched six times to finish as top scorer, taking his club form into the international stage—Rossi was the '82 European Player of the Year.

    The forward added the Golden Ball and Golden Boot to that list, as well as the World Cup itself.

3. Zinedine Zidane, 2006

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    CHRISTOPHE ENA/Associated Press

    Zinedine Zidane played out the last days of his career at the 2006 World Cup and put in a vintage display in the knockout stages to guide France through to the final.

    Despite not being entirely at his best—and then suspended—in the groups, Zidane was instrumental in seeing France past Spain and Brazil. He added a penalty to beat Portugal in the semi-finals and scored another in the final itself, the second World Cup final he scored in.

    However, he was sent off in extra time, his last act as a footballer, after headbutting Marco Materazzi.

2. Oliver Kahn, 2002

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    VINCENT YU/Associated Press

    Germany ended as losing finalists at the 2002 World Cup, but it wasn't for the lack of effort and ability from their goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.

    At his peak at the time as the best stopper in world football, Kahn conceded only one goal in Germany's six-match run through the groups to the semi-finals, keeping five clean sheets with a string of dominant performances and impressive saves.

    It took the great Ronaldo to breach him twice in the final and beat Germany, but Kahn was rightly awarded the Golden Ball—the only goalkeeper to do so.

1. Diego Maradona, 1986

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    Carlo Fumagalli/Associated Press

    The greatest and most deserving winner of the Golden Ball award has to go to Diego Maradona of Argentina for his displays in winning the 1986 World Cup.

    Not only did he manage five goals along the way, but he completely raised the ability to win games of his nation, scoring twice to beat England in the quarter-finals, including what is perhaps the world's best-ever goal, certainly at the finals.

    He was also instrumental in their win over Belgium in the semis, scoring twice, and set up the winning goal late on in the final itself.