How Ballon d’Or winners ended their careers

How Ballon d’Or winners ended their careers

Many of the 21st-century football stars concluded their careers by leaving Europe. Lionel Messi, after winning his eighth Ballon d’Or, openly acknowledged that this award would likely be his last.

“I believe this is my final Ballon d’Or. I’m grateful for everything I’ve achieved and for being the only footballer to secure eight awards,” stated the Argentine.

Regrettably, the era of Messi and Ronaldo has come to an end. Both legends opted to finish their careers in leagues where individual performances don’t earn Golden Balls. The 36-year-old Messi is now in MLS, while the 38-year-old Ronaldo is playing in Saudi Arabia. In the same league as Cristiano, Karim Benzema, the recipient of the prestigious 2022 individual award, is currently inactive. Betting on fights involving Messi and Ronaldo is convenient and profitable thanks to

What about other Ballon d’Or winners from the 21st century? Where did they choose to conclude their playing days—chasing Asian or American riches, or staying in Europe until their final moments on the pitch? Let’s delve into the stories of these football luminaries.


The Brazilian secured the Ballon d’Or in 2007 while playing for Milan. After 11 seasons in Europe with Milan and Real Madrid, Kaka, seven years post his Ballon d’Or triumph, moved to the USA, joining Orlando City. Despite not winning any trophies in America, Kaka, the highest-paid player in the American League at $7.2 million per year, expressed his satisfaction: “I always wanted to play in the USA.”

Fabio Cannavaro:

The legendary central defender, who won the Ballon d’Or in 2006, concluded his 18-season European career with stints at Napoli, Parma, Inter, Juventus, and Real Madrid. At around 33 years old, Cannavaro opted for a new adventure in Asia, signing with Al-Ahly in the UAE for two seasons. His decision was driven by family well-being rather than financial gain.


The Brazilian maestro, who claimed the Golden Ball in 2005, returned to Brazil five years after his European stint, playing in Mexico for Queretaro in 2014. Ronaldinho, with a modest salary of $1.8 million per year, didn’t achieve significant success in Mexico, but he humorously stated, “In Mexico, I will continue to win titles and girls.”

Andriy Shevchenko:

The 2004 Ballon d’Or winner spent the last three seasons of his career with Dynamo Kyiv in his native Ukraine, despite contemplating a move to the USA in 2007. Shevchenko cited a desire to contribute to the growth of football in the U.S., but the move never materialized, and he rejected a reported offer from DC United.

Pavel Nedved:

Nedved, who received the Golden Ball in 2003, spent his entire foreign career in Italy, playing for Lazio and Juventus. Despite receiving lucrative offers, Nedved chose to stay in Europe, citing family comfort as the decisive factor. Agent Mino Raiola revealed, “No amount of money will force him to disturb the comfort of his family.”


The Brazilian forward, who won his second Ballon d’Or in 2002, concluded his 14-year European career with Corinthians in Brazil after a successful stint with Real Madrid. Ronaldo, despite having offers from Arab countries and the USA, chose Milan and later Corinthians, expressing his determination to prove that his football career was far from over.

Michael Owen:

The 2001 Ballon d’Or winner, Michael Owen, spent his entire career in Europe, moving from Liverpool to Real Madrid and later playing for Newcastle, Manchester United, and Stoke City. Even when left without a club in 2012, Owen declined offers from various countries, stating, “My choice is the Premier League.”

These stories showcase the diverse paths chosen by Ballon d’Or winners as they approached the twilight of their illustrious football careers.