George Weah, the first non-European to win the Ballon d'Or
Until 1994, only European players could be candidates for the Ballon d'Or. But then the rule changed and now, any player can be a candidate.
Although the Ballon d'Or trophy has great international prestige, it is also sometimes discussed for many reasons. The main reason and the one that is most repeated throughout its editions was that footballers who were not European or did not play in Europe could not opt for it. Keep in mind that at that time, the trophy was not called the "Ballon d'Or", but the European Footballer of the Year Award.
For this reason, great players like Pelé, Diego Maradona, Hugo Sánchez, Garrincha, Mario Kempes, Zico, or Romário da Souza, some of the best players in the history of America, could not opt for it. Even in 2015, France Football itself carried out an investigation and determined that if this rule had not existed, Maradona would have won 2 Ballon d'Ors and Pelé 7. A different case is the Argentine Alfredo Di Stéfano, who won 2 Ballon d'Ors, but under Spanish nationality. Had he not been nationalized; he would not have won these awards.
Due to the globalization of this sport, in 1995 France Football determined that any player who plays in Europe, regardless of their nationality, could choose to win a Ballon d'Or. And in 2007, the rules were changed again and now, any player, from any league in the world, can be a candidate to win this award.
Curiously, the first year that this rule was eliminated, a non-European player was the winner, this was George Weah, the only African to win it. This player was born in Liberia, a country located on the west coast of Africa. George Weah came to Europe in 1988 thanks to Arsène Wenger, who at the time was coach of AS Monaco. "I remember when he arrived in Monaco, a little lost, without knowing anyone and without anyone having references to him as a footballer. Then, he became the best player in the world and the president of his country." George Weah is currently President of Liberia.
In the 1994-1995 season, George Weah was a sensation and became the top scorer in the Champions League with 8 goals and helped PSG reach the semi-final losing to Milan, a team that would sign him the following year. By 1995, Weah was 29 years old and had just signed for AC Milan for 11 billion lire (7.5 million euros). He arrived at the Italian giant after playing 7 seasons in France, where he played 286 games and scored 121 goals. He was known as "The Black Beast".
In his first season with the Italian club, Weah was the team's top scorer (15 goals between the league tournament and international competitions, in 35 games) and the team won the Serie A championship. At the end of that year, something historic happened, George Weah was named the best player in the world, becoming the first African player to win a Ballon d'Or. In the final classification, he got 144 points, 36 more than the German player Jürgen Klinsmann.
He was at Milan for 5 seasons, then played for Chelsea, Manchester City, Olympique de Marseille, and Al-Jazira. In addition to the Ballon d'Or, his most important achievements were winning Serie A with Milan, Ligue 1 with PSG, and the FA Cup with Chelsea. Unfortunately, he never managed to play a FIFA World Cup with Liberia.
Currently, he is 55 years old but he has definitely abandoned football. He dedicates 100% of his time to lead his country as President.
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