What do George Weah, Jean-Pierre Papin, Andriy Shevchenko, Matthias Sammer and Hristo Stoichkov have in common? Of course, it’s pretty well-known that they are all past Ballon d’Or winners. But the few names on this short list share something else, too. These are the only five names from the past three decades who’ve won the Ballon d’Or but aren’t Icons… yet.
Every other former winner of football’s most coveted individual prize has undertaken a signing session for Icons, from Marco Van Basten to Ronaldo Nazario, Zinedine Zidane to Lionel Messi. And so, when mercurial midfielder Luka Modric won this year’s accolade, it was only a matter of time before he joined our roster. Well, it was 58 days, to be exact.
In fact, our recent signing with Luka also kept alive another impressive streak of ours: we can now say that we have worked with the winners of the award from each of the past fourteen seasons.
Luka was delighted to join the list and even allowed our signing team to hold the actual Ballon d’Or award that he has at home on his mantelpiece in Madrid. ‘Signed By The World’s Best’ indeed!
So, how do we get to these players? Well, to be frank, it’s a combination of judgement and luck. We first worked with Messi, for example, when he was just 17-years-old. The year was 2006 and we had been tipped off about this new sensation in Barcelona by our man on the ground in Spain. I could write for days with similar stories. We met Cristiano Ronaldo as he arrived in Manchester. Kaka had been an Icon for a number of years before he won a Ballon d’Or. We even saw a 19-year-old Neymar Jr playing in Sao Paolo – that was 2013 and we were sat next to Kaka’s father. It was Ronaldo Nazario who had let us know that this guy might be a future Ballon d’Or winner. Neymar Jr hasn’t won it yet, of course, but we’re playing the long-game.
We like to think we can spot talent and it was great to see our first Icon of the Future, Callum Hudson-Odoi, who signed for Icons back in May 2018, selling more items during our January Sale than many of the biggest names in the sport. It shows we might be on to something with the Chelsea starlet. Maybe he too will have something shiny on his mantelpiece in a decade’s time…
I always say that as a kid I collected football stickers but nowadays I collect footballers. So come on, George, Jean-Pierre, Andriy, Matthias and Hristo – it’s time to get in touch and join the world’s most truly iconic club.