Gary Lineker convinced he should have won Ballon d'Or in 1986, it's one of his biggest regrets
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Gary Lineker believes he deserved to lift the Ballon d'Or in 1986 over eventual-winner Igor Belanov.
At the time, Lineker was arguably in his prime. After winning the Golden Boot with England at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, he was snapped up by Barcelona for £2.8 million.
He would score on his La Liga debut against Racing Santander before going on to score 21 goals in 41 games during his first season in Spain.
But despite reaching those heights, the Leicester City youth product was beaten to the Ballon d'Or by Soviet forward Igor Belanov.
It came as a surprise to many. Belanov lifted the award at the annual gala ceremony on December 30th, 1986 after an impressive World Cup campaign.
He notched four goals and six assists for the Soviet Union as they reached the round of 16 – a game in which he scored a hat-trick against Belgium.
But that record was not nearly as good as Lineker's. Still, the Dynamo Kiev forward was awarded the best player award to end the dominance of Michel Platini.
"I should have won the Ballon d’Or in 1986. If there’s one thing I regret, it is that," he said.
"At that time, only European players were eligible to win the Ballon d’Or, so Diego Maradona couldn’t win it – which he undoubtedly would have done if non-European players were allowed to contend for the prize.
"At that time, it was Diego – and everyone else. It was as if Maradona came from a different dimension.
"But, speaking of everyone else, I do think I deserved the award that year. Igor Belanov had a very, very good game in the World Cup (belanov scored a hat-trick in the match against Belgium, and the USSR national team lost 3-4), and all journalists from Eastern Europe rallied and voted massively for him."]
Football magazine When Saturday Comes branded Belanov 'the least remembered' Ballon d’Or winner and agreed that his win over names like Lineker and Butragueno was a shock.
Lineker added: "I don’t want to dwell on it, but I should have received the Ballon d’Or in 1986. However, now that I know he visits Ukrainian soldiers on the front line, using his trophy to inspire them, I have nothing more to say. He deserves it, well done!’"
Belanov, who won 33 caps for the Soviet Union between 1985 and 1990 and was part of the side that reached the final of Euro 1988, was one of several Ukrainian sporting icons to pick up arms in the defence of his country against Russia.