Why did Oleh Blokhin & Igor Belanov win the Balon D’or?

When you look through a list of Balon d’Or winners you see a who’s who of the biggest names in football history. From Stanley Matthews to Cristiano Ronaldo; every winner of the Balon d’Or has gone down in footballing history as an icon of the game. Every winner except for two. Oleh Blokhin and Igor Belanov. Two Balon d’Or winners from Dinamo Kyiv in 1975 and 1986.

So why did they win the most prestigious individual award in football in these years? In both years Kyiv won the Cup Winners Cup with Belanov leading the scoring charts in the competition in 1986. But surely that isn’t enough to warrant being called the best European player for that year.

Beginning with the 1975 winner Oleh Blokhin. A Ukranian striker who had a fantastic goalscoring record in the then Soviet League. scoring a career league total of 225 goals in 495 games. A great return for any striker but in a league of that quality should he have been a Balon d’Or winner?

In 1975 he scored 23 in 36 appearances in all competitions including five goals in eight appearances in the cup winners cup. Although it is a good return it is nowhere near good enough to be the called the best player in Europe. To score 18 in a poor league in the Soviet Union and 5 in Europes B list competition albeit in a winning effort. He wasn’t scoring at an unbelievable rate especially when you compare it to Jupp Heynckes who places 7th in that years Balon d’Or vote who scored 42 in 43 in the 74-75 season and won the UEFA Cup with Borussia Monchengladbach. Or Gerd Muller who scored 30 in 43 in that season as well as being the joint top scorer in the European Cup with 5 goals as Bayern Munich went on to win it. Muller only got 4 points in the Balon D’or voting whereas Blokhin got almost 3 times as many votes as second place Franz Beckenbauer who captained Bayern to the second of three consecutive European Cup wins.

Fast Forward 11 years and another Dinamo Kyiv player was picking up the award. Igor Belanov. A similar story to Blokhin in that Kyiv won the Cup Winners Cup and Belanov topped the scoring charts joint on 5 goals with no other than Oleh Blokhin himself. So why did Belanov win the Balon D’or in 1986? Upon further inspection, Belanovs top goalscorer award is not the amazing feat of goalscoring that it seemed. three of his goals were against minnows Universitatea Craiova as well as a brace against another small side in Rapid Wien. His other two goals were penalties.

There was an obvious winner that year in Diego Maradona but in those years the award was only open to European players. Even still there were two much more obvious choices than Belanov with Gary Lineker and Helmuth Duckadam. Scoring 38 in 52 for Everton in the 85-86 season, going to the World Cup in Mexico scoring 6 goals and winning the golden boot in the process. Then getting a move to Barcelona and continuing to score at a fantastic rate. Of course, there is much more to football than goals and stats but When Lineker was scoring at that rate as well as winning the golden boot in the biggest football competition in the world you have to question why Belanov won that year.

Helmuth Duckadam was a part of the historic Steaua Bucharest European Cup winning team. He pretty much lead the team to the trophy in one of the biggest upsets in European cup history. In the final Duckadam saved 4 penalties in a row in the Penalty shootout pretty much winning the cup for Bucharest single-handedly. In the league Duckadam was also a standout performer, conceding only 25 goals in 34 games and leading into the 86-87 season where he only conceded 17 in 34. An amazing goalkeeping record that deserved recognition like a Balon D’or win.

I can’t find any reason for Blokhin and Belanov to have won these two awards these years. Potentially European nations appeasing the Soviet Union by voting their players as Balon D’or winners as a political move perhaps a bit of corruption in the voting system. One thing is for certain though these two players were not the two best players in Europe in these years and these awards went to the wrong players in these years.