Lionel Messi: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
The Argentinian monopolised the trophy between 2009 and 2012, beginning in 2009 as he fired FC Barcelona to a treble of UEFA Champions League, Spanish Liga and Copa del Rey.
That started a glorious period of dominance for the Catalans and Messi himself; highlights included 47 club goals in all competitions in 2009/10, 53 in 2010/11 – when he won another UEFA Champions League, becoming only the third player to score in two finals – and a remarkable 73 strikes in 2011/12.
That last total helped Messi register a scarcely believable 91 goals for club and country in 2012, surpassing Gerd Müller's record of 85 set in 1972 – heralding him becoming the first player to claim four successive Ballon d'Ors.
Johan Cruyff: 1971, 1973, 1974
The first man to win the Ballon d'Or three times, the Dutch master first collected the award in 1971, the same year he aided AFC Ajax to the first of their three consecutive European Champion Clubs' Cups.
Cruyff moved on to Barcelona in 1973, the year of his second European Footballer of the Year prize, and picked up the accolade again the following year after inspiring the Netherlands to the FIFA World Cup final, where they lost to West Germany.
His impact was summed up by football historian Jimmy Burns: "With Cruyff, the team felt they couldn't lose."
Michel Platini: 1983, 1984, 1985
The Frenchman became the first person to receive the Ballon d'Or three years in succession in the 1980s, taking the honour for the first time in 1983, the year his Juventus side reached the European Cup final.
Twelve months later the award was his again, after his nine goals – still a EURO final tournament record – had inspired France to 1984 UEFA European Championship success on home soil, adding the European Cup Winners' Cup with Juve.
In 1985 the midfielder prevailed for the third year in a row having converted the penalty that gave Juventus their first European Cup.
Marco van Basten: 1988, 1989, 1992
The second Dutchman to be named European Footballer of the Year, Van Basten's five goals helped the Netherlands dominate the 1988 UEFA European Championship.
He came out on top again the next year, thanks mainly to finishing as Serie A's top scorer with 25 goals for AC Milan and two more in the European Cup final triumph against FC Steaua Bucureşti.
Cristiano Ronaldo: 2008, 2013, 2014
The Portugal ace scooped the trophy for the first time in 2008, his 31 Premier League goals and eight more in the UEFA Champions League having helped Manchester United FC win both competitions in 2007/08.
Although he came second to Messi in three of the next four years, having switched to Real Madrid CF, Ronaldo posted some eye-catching feats of his own – not least his 40 Liga goals in 2010/11 and 46 more the following year – before capturing the prize for a second time in 2013, after 60 Madrid goals and ten more for Portugal.
Another remarkable campaign in 2013/14, including a record-breaking 17 UEFA Champions League strikes as Madrid secured 'La Décima', gave him the Ballon d'Or again.
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