I'm a Ballon d'Or winner who pipped Gary Lineker to the gong before joining the army to fight against Russian invasion | The Sun

IGOR BELANOV won the Ballon d'Or before joining the Ukrainian army to defend his country from the Russian invasion.

The former striker is one of three players from Ukraine to have won the award, alongside Oleg Blokhin and Andriy Shevchenko.

He pipped World Cup Golden Boot winner Gary Lineker and Emilio Butragueno to the gong in 1986.

It capped an impressive year for Belanov, who won both the European Cup Winners' Cup and Soviet Top League with Dynamo Kyiv.

Belanov also finished as the top scorer in the Cup Winners' Cup with five goals.

Lineker was almost beaten to the World Cup Golden Boot by the Ukrainian too, with Belanov scoring four goals in as many matches for the USSR.



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Those goals included a hat-trick in their quarter-final defeat to Belgium.

He starred for the national team again two years later as they reached the final of the Euros in 1988.

Belanov spent the majority of his career in Ukraine – but did enjoy a five-year spell in Germany with Borussia Monchengladbach and Eintracht Braunschweig.

The forward scored eight goals in 33 caps for the USSR before retiring aged 36 in 1997.

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He went on to become a majority shareholder at Swiss club FC Wil but has spent the last five years as an advisor for the Ukrainian national team.

Whilst working in that role, he joined the armed forces in April last year to help protect his country against the Russian invasion.

Belanov visited injured servicemen in hospital with his Ballon d'Or trophy and met with president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his hometown Odessa.

The pair held talks with military groups before handing out aid and gifts to military personnel.

In a social media post following his visit, Belanov hailed the soldiers for their "amazing courage and inexhaustible fighting spirit".

Now 63, Belanov will be involved in this year's Ballon d'Or awards show as a member of the voting panel for the Kopa Trophy.

The award is given to the best player below the age of 21 and is chosen by a jury of all former Ballon d'Or winners.

This year's nominees include 2022 winner Gavi and England midfielder Jude Bellingham.

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