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Five Ballon d’Or winners who were not from top four European leagues

Josef Masopust (1962)

The former Czechoslovakia international was plying his trade for Dukla Prague, one of the most dominant teams in the Czechoslovak league during the 1960s and 70s, when he became the first player from outside of the top four European leagues to win the Ballon d’Or. Masopust helped his national team reach the final of the 1962 World Cup and was awarded the Silver Ball at the tournament for his efforts.

In 2003, Masopust was selected by the Football Association of the Czech Republic as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years.

Lev Yashin (1963)

The legendary Soviet Union goalkeeper remains the only custodian to have won the Ballon d’Or. Known as the Black Panther, Yashin helped the Soviet Union win the 1956 Olympic gold medal and the first ever European Championship in 1960.

He won the 1963 Ballon d’Or ahead of Gianni Rivera of AC Milan and Jimmy Greaves of Tottenham Hotspur, while he was turning out for Dynamo Moscow. A one-club man, Yashin played his entire 20-year professional career for the Moscow outfit.

Eusebio (1965)

The Portuguese striker was one of the most lethal attackers of his era and was a key cog in Bela Guttman’s Benfica in the early 1960s that broke Real Madrid’s stronghold over the European Cup with their triumph in the final in 1962. Eusebio scored goals by the buckets and quite remarkably, by the time he was finished at Benfica Eusebio had scored more than a goal per game for the club.

He was a prolific scorer for the national team as well and amassed 41 goals from his 64 appearances, helping them to a fourth place finish at the 1966 World Cup in England. Eusebio became the first Portuguese player to win the Ballon d’Or in 1963 when he finished ahead of Giacinto Facchetti and Luis Suarez in the voting.

Florian Albert (1967)

It is quite remarkable that from a national team that saw players like Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis and Nandor Hidegkuti amongst other Mighty Magyars, the first and still the only Hungarian to win the Ballon d’Or is Florian Albert. Perhaps the Mighty Magyars reached their peak a little earlier than the award came into being.

Albert, nonetheless, was a remarkable footballer and gained legendary status during the course of his career at Ferencvaros in the Hungarian top flight, winning four league titles with them. He beat off challenge from Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Johnstone to claim the 1967 Ballon d’Or.

Oleg Blokhin (1975)

One of the greatest strikers of the 1970s, Oleg Blokhin claimed the 1975 Ballon d’Or while playing for Dynamo Kiev in the Soviet Union top flight. Blokhin played around two decades for the Ukrainian outfit and with his 211 league goals, remains the top goalscorer in the now-defunct Soviet Top League.

Blokhin breezed through the 1975 voting for the Ballon d’Or with 122 votes, leaving the legendary Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff a distant second and third with 42 and 27 votes, respectively.

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