Image copyright AFP Image caption This year’s Ballon d’Or is announced on Friday but Gerd Mueller’s record is already secure
In 1939 – the last time the Fifa Ballon d’Or was announced – Germany’s Mario Goetze took on a world record bid to avoid the humiliation of finishing runner-up to Lionel Messi.
The 22-year-old World Cup finalist remembers that ‘Everyone in his country said he needed to win something just to be recognised’ – but he went on to win the award in 2014, prompting “a big roar of satisfaction.”
The gold trophy is handed out to the world’s best player every year, but voting for the Brazilian and Swiss each year is kept secret until after the event.
“It’s a great confidence and a huge satisfaction,” said Goetze. “I always believed I could be top player, but of course when I was runner-up as an Under-20 player – even that was nerve-racking.”
The 13-time Ballon d’Or winner Gerd Mueller, in charge of the 1999 survey for Fifa-affiliated fans, told BBC World Service Sport: “We want a secret ballot because these players in their lives don’t want to know who they are playing against.
“We want those people to vote for players who could win and become a legend – who could just have saved that team at the last moment.”
Only those that vote by phone or online for the history of football have the chance to reveal their allegiances at the tiny Riviera hotel on Thursday morning.
In the 1960s, 61s and 1970s, voting was done with a large general audience – however, in the digital age, the 1995 World Cup poll was distributed to all 92 countries via newspapers, schools and students.
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In general, German award nominees tend to have a connection to their home country – like Philipp Lahm. The German midfielder, who won the 2014 World Cup, won four Ballon d’Or awards to help the nation to a third-place finish in World Cup 2014.
“We have made sure that almost all countries have a chance to have a vote,” added Mueller. “Even if you are a foreigner in Germany, you have a right to have a vote.”
“Every journalist that doesn’t vote knows that they are voting for the wrong player – and that has a huge credibility in my opinion.”
The winner will be announced on Friday.