Brazilian great Pele was finally awarded a Ballon d'Or in Zurich on Monday, despite retiring in 1977, co-organisers France Football announced.
When France Football created the Ballon d'Or in 1956 it was for the best player playing in Europe and Pele never played club football in the 'old continent'.
By the time FIFA inaugurated the world footballer of the year award in 1991, Pele had long since retired.
But Monday he was given an honorary Ballon d'Or to rectify a historic wrong.
"For regulation reasons the king is not on the list of Ballon d'Or winners, an anomaly that was corrected in 2013," said France Football on their website.
In 2010 the Ballon d'Or and FIFA's world footballer of the year awards, which had run separately for 19 years, were amalgamated to create the FIFA Ballon d'Or for the best player in the world.
Pele had revealed the news himself to Brazilian press on Sunday, saying: "I won three World Cups but during a period when the Ballon d'Or didn't exist (for non-European based players).
"But FIFA has decided to give me one."
The 2013 Ballon d'Or will be won by either favourite Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Portugal, Barcelona and Argentina's reigning four-time winner Lionel Messi, or Bayern Munich and France winger Franck Ribery.