Spain's 1-0 victory over England in the final of the 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand sent the iconic trophy to a European nation for the first time since Germany's win in 2007. However, that doesn't mean that Europe's top women's players haven't received any silverware in recent years; on top of their domestic campaigns and adventures in the Champions League, each season there are a number of individual awards available to both men's and women's players operating at the highest level of the game.
Probably the most famous individual award around is the Ballon d'Or, which since its inception in 1956 has been broadly viewed as the most valuable and prestigious individual accolade a professional footballer can get their hands on. However, there are several other trophies that players can win if they consistently perform to an outstanding level.
Another more recently introduced award is the Yashin Trophy, which we'll be explaining in detail in this article. We'll answer the question 'What is the Yashin Trophy?', providing a brief history of the award and taking you through all of the players who have won it in recent years. We'll also note some of the other individual accolades available to professional players each season.
Most people accept the fact that the Ballon d'Or tends to be won by attacking players, who naturally attract more attention from fans, pundits, journalists, players and ex-pros than their teammates stationed in less glamorous defensive or midfield positions. In a way, the Yashin Trophy exists to counteract this notion — because this award is reserved for goalkeepers only.
Each year, the Yashin Trophy is awarded to the player judged to be the best goalkeeper in the world that year. The big reveal comes at the annual Ballon d'Or ceremony, an event packed with the most celebrated footballers and ex-footballers on the planet.
The Yashin Trophy is a fairly recent addition to the sphere of footballing awards, with the first trophy being handed out in 2019. But why is it called the Yashin Trophy?
There's a reason that the annual award for the best goalkeeper in the world is called the Yashin Trophy: it's named after iconic Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin, who many people consider to be the greatest goalkeeper to ever play the game.
Lev Yashin is the only goalkeeper in history to win the Ballon d'Or.
Reportedly keeping a remarkable 270 clean sheets in his 400+ career appearances for Dynamo Moscow and the Soviet Union national team, and saving 150 penalties along the way, he was a shot-stopping machine and a monumental figure within Soviet football throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
As well as recording five Soviet Top League titles, three Soviet Cups, a European Championship trophy and an Olympic Gold Medal, he was also decorated with a huge number of individual accolades. Yashin was a nine-time European Goalkeeper of the Year winner, a two-time member of the UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament, and even a recipient of the Order of Lenin. However, there's one individual award he is particularly famous for winning: the Ballon d'Or.
He received the award in 1963, after an incredible season in which he kept 22 clean sheets and conceded only 6 goals in 27 appearances for Dynamo Moscow. With a record like that, it's no surprise he ended up taking home the coveted Golden Ball award. However, since then, no other goalkeeper has managed to win the prize.
This is partly what prompted French magazine France Football (the organisers of the Ballon d'Or) into introducing an accolade reserved solely for goalkeepers, and once the decision was made there was only one player it could be named after: the history-making Lev Yashin.
Yashin is the only goalkeeper to have won the Ballon d'Or, and only a small handful of defenders can also claim to have got their hands on the iconic golden ball.
Germans Franz Beckenbauer and Matthias Sammer and legendary former Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro are the only three defenders to have won the Ballon d'Or. Ultimately, this is a trophy that has been dominated by exciting attackers.
In recent years, the brilliance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo has meant that the award has largely been passed between the Argentine and Portugal stars; Messi has seven wins to his name, while Ronaldo has five. In fact, since 2008, only Luka Modric and Karim Benzema have broken their dominance. Before the emergence of these two figures, however, a wide variety of players won the Ballon d'Or.
Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Michael Owen, Zinedine Zidane, and George Weah all picked up awards in the 1990s or early 2000s. Three-time winners of the award include the Netherlands' Marco Van Basten and Johan Cruyff and France's Michel Platini, while players such as Alfredo di Stefano, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Kevin Keegan all received the Ballon d'Or on two separate occasions.
The process for deciding the winner of the Ballon d'Or starts with a longlist and shortlist drawn up by the organisers of the competition, the magazine France Football. After France Football have selected this list of players, a jury of 211 expert journalists (one representing each country affiliated with FIFA) will select five players in order of preference, giving them a score of 6, 4, 3, 2, or 1 point.
The player who collects the most points in total will win the Ballon d'Or. If two or more players tie on points, the winner will be the player who is selected in first place the most times during the voting process.
The Yashin Trophy is a fairly recent invention, so there have only been a handful of award winners so far. Below, you'll find a list of those winners ordered by year.
Winner: Alisson (Brazil and Liverpool)
Runner-up: Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (Germany and Barcelona)
3rd-place: Ederson (Brazil and Manchester City)
N/A (not awarded due to the Covid-19 pandemic)
Winner: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy and Paris Saint Germain)
Runner-up: Edouard Mendy (Senegal and Chelsea)
3rd-place: Jan Oblak (Slovenia and Atletico Madrid)
Winner: Thibaut Courtois (Belgium and Real Madrid)
Runner-up: Alisson (Brazil and Liverpool)
3rd-place: Ederson (Brazil and Manchester City)
After guiding Liverpool to 97 Premier League points, conceding just 22 goals and losing only 1 game all season in 2018-19, the Reds' Number 1 shot-stopper Alisson went home with the first-ever Yashin Trophy in 2019.
The following year, Italy's Gianluigi Donnarumma's outstanding performances at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament were enough to get him the win, while Thibaut Courtois' incredible display in the final of the 2022 Champions League for Real Madrid against Liverpool — a game in which he looked completely unstoppable — helped edge it for the Belgian the year after.
The winner of the Yashin Trophy is calculated using a points system, after a voting system involving expert journalists from each of FIFA's affiliated nations (the same system used to decide the winner of the Ballon d'Or.
Each member of the jury will select three goalkeepers from the France Football-published shortlist and award them a score of 5 points, 3 points, or 1 point. The player who collects the most points in total wins the top prize.
Some years, the results can be tighter than others; in 2019, Alisson smashed the competition, winning the award with 795 points to runner-up Ter Stegen's 284 points. However, in 2021, Mendy was only 190 points behind victor Donnarumma's winning total of 594 points.
The Kopa Trophy is another Ballon d'Or affiliated award, given out each year at the same ceremony. However, while the Yashin Trophy focuses on goalkeepers, the Kopa Trophy is all about honoring the best young players in the world.
This trophy is awarded to the best player under 21 years of age. France Football Magazine provides a list of 10 candidates to voters before the gala, taking into account individual and collective performances over the past year.
However, the voting system for the Kopa Trophy works slightly differently; here, the winner is decided by previous winners of the Ballon d'Or. Each member of this jury chooses three players, ranking them in order of preference and awarding them 5, 3, or 1 points respectively. Recent winners include Gavi, Pedri, and Matthias De Ligt.
The next winner of the Yashin Trophy will be announced at the 2023 ceremony of the Ballon d'Or, due to take place on October 30. There are a number of contenders for the prize, although a lot of things could change before the voting takes place this autumn.
As it stands, Brazilians Ederson and Alisson will both be hoping to be in contention; and whilst Alisson managed to win the trophy in 2019, Ederson's trophy-laden 2022-23 season with Manchester City, in which he won the Premier League, the Champions League, and the FA Cup, means he is likely to go in as the frontrunner in many people's eyes.
Elsewhere across Europe, it's difficult to look past Real Madrid's Thibaut Courtois — the man who triumphed at last year's Yashin Trophy ceremony — and Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who has been considered one of the world's greatest goalkeepers for several years now, and who helped lead Xavi Hernandez to a title-winning first season as Barca boss, conceding just 18 goals in 38 La Liga matches. Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez may also fancy his chances as an outside bet, with his penalty-saving heroics at the 2022 Qatar World Cup ensuring that Argentina's captain Lionel Messi finally got his hands on the prestigious World Cup trophy.
Want to find out more about some of the most prestigious individual trophies available to the world's best footballers? Check out our guide to The Golden Boot vs The Golden Ball.