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Gray hair in the beard: Messi and the four oldest Ballon d'Or winners

Gray hair in the beard: Messi and the four oldest Ballon d'Or winners Photo: Lionel Messi at the top at 36 (

The day prior, Lionel Messi, a forward for Inter Miami and Argentina, secured his eighth Ballon d'Or for his exemplary professional performances at 36 years of age.

Read RBC-Ukraine's article about the five oldest players to have won the Ballon d'Or.

In the France Football Awards voting, the reigning champion outperformed much younger competitors. The prestigious award's runner-up was Erling Haaland, a 23-year-old forward for Manchester City. Meanwhile, at the age of 24, Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain finished in third place.

However, Lionel Messi, 36, failed to break the age record for the Ballon d'Or. He came in second place behind the club's top figures. Alongside him were primarily historic heroes. The undisputed winner of the first-ever award remains unchallenged.

In 1956, English football player Stanley Matthews was awarded the first Ballon d'Or. At the time, the 41-year-old veteran received the tribute in recognition of his previous achievements. Renowned for his sportsmanship, Matthews was synonymous with the sport of football, much like Gretzky would become for hockey, or Schumacher for Formula 1 in later years.

Gray hair in the beard: Messi and the four oldest Ballon d'Or winnersPhoto: Sir Stanley Matthews was known as "The Wizard of the Dribble"

Thus, Blackpool became the runner-up in the English league's 1955/56 season. However, Matthews only managed to score three goals throughout the championship. The famed Argentine, Di Stefano, reached the pinnacle of his career and guided Real Madrid to clinch the Champions Cup trophy. France Football introduced Ballon d'Or awards for outstanding individual achievements during that period.

In the previous year, Karim Benzema, the French forward, won the title and secured the third position this time, at the age of 34. Unlike Matthews, the coach of Real Madrid was undoubtedly the best in the world during that period. Under his leadership, the "creamy" team achieved victories in the Spanish league, the Champions League, and the Spanish Super Cup, while also winning the Piccius Trophy. Furthermore, the coach scored an impressive 44 goals throughout the season.

Lev Yashin was another notable figure in Ballon d'Or history. In 1963, the legendary Soviet goalkeeper received the award when he was 34 years old and widely known by his famous nickname "The Black Spider." It appears that, similarly, the French magazine editors based their decision on the goalkeeper's past accomplishments, notably his success at the 1960 European Championships. It should be noted that Yashin's prime had already passed by the time the award was given. In fact, during the same 1962 World Cup, the USSR team was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Chile.

Gray hair in the beard: Messi and the four oldest Ballon d'Or winnersPhoto: Lev Yashin is the sole goalkeeper in history to win the Ballon d'Or (

Finally, Alfredo Di Stefano is one of the five oldest Ballon d'Or winners of all time, having won the prize twice in his career as a striker for three national teams (Argentina, Colombia, Spain). Originally from Buenos Aires, he has a distinguished record in football. In 1959, he led Real Madrid to its fourth consecutive Champions Cup win and became the first scorer in La Liga.

The top ten age winners of the award are also notable figures from recent history. Modric and Cannavaro both won the Ballon d'Or at the age of 33. Ronaldo, who is Portuguese, was 32 when he last triumphed, while his compatriots Masopust and Nedved were 31 years old when they won. In order to surpass Matthews' achievement, Messi will have to win the prize in 2028.

It is worth noting that the 2003 Ballon d'Or presentation did not include Ronaldo in the list of candidates.