Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo have more imaginary curses to contend with than just those laid on him by Ghanaian priests. By winning the most recent Ballon d'Or award, he now joins a doomed group of legendary players who have never won the World Cup after winning the last Ballon d'Or — first awarded to the European Footballer of the Year (European players at European clubs) before being expanded to include non-European players at European clubs in 1995 and finally merging with FIFA's World Player of the Year award in 2010.
The curse of World Cup failings for the current Ballon d'Or winner dates back to 1957 Ballon d'Or winner Alfredo Di Stefano missing out on qualification for the 1958 World Cup with Spain. Since then, it's been nothing but heartbreak for the likes of Eusebio (who even won the Golden Boot with nine goals at the 1966 World Cup) Johan Cruyff (1974), Michel Platini (1986), Ronaldo (1998) and Lionel Messi (2010). As the AFP notes, the reigning Ballon d'Or winner has reached the World Cup final five times and lost all of them.
The most horrific realization of this ongoing string of misfortune hit Italy's Roberto Baggio in the 1994 World Cup final, when he famously blasted the last penalty over the crossbar in a decisive shootout against Brazil. Of course, Ballon d'or or no Ballon d'Or, Portugal were never expected to win the 2014 World Cup, so even reaching the final would be something of a success for Ronaldo and company. Especially given the growing list of made-up curses hanging over his head like a cloud filled with novelty locusts and frogs.
Perhaps worrisome for Brazil, though, is the fact that Pele was awarded an honorary Ballon d'Or at the same ceremony that Cristiano received his. Like Maradona, Pele never won the award during his career since he was excluded by the European players at European clubs restriction. Since this Ballon d'Or Prix d'Honneur is a brand new award, it remains unclear if it has imaginary cursing powers.
But while being honored for individual talent has never lead to World Cup success, winning a World Cup has led to winning the Ballon d'Or for the likes of Germany's Lothar Matthaus (1990) and Italy's Fabio Cannavaro (2006).
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