Owen wins top prize

Michael Owen has been voted European Footballer of the Year after a tremendous 12 months for club and country.

Michael Owen has been voted European Footballer of the Year.

Tremendous year
The Liverpool FC and England striker won the 46th prestigious Ballon d'Or award, presented by France Football magazine, after a tremendous year that saw him shine for club and country. Owen’s goals helped Liverpool to UEFA Cup glory as well as two domestic cup successes but his best performance came when England beat Germany 5-1 in a 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifier in September.

'I couldn't believe it'
The striker, 22 last Friday, scored a hat-trick that sent shockwaves around Europe and he has maintained that form for his club, scoring nine goals in eleven FA Premiership matches. "I couldn't believe it when I first heard the news,” Owen said in an interview with France Football. "I knew that I was one of the five players in question, but it still seemed unbelievable to me."

Raúl second
"There was also [Francesco] Totti, against who we played recently, Raúl [González] and even [David] Beckham. What fantastic footballers!," Owen added. In all, there were 50 contenders for the European award. Behind Owen in second place was Real Madrid CF striker Raúl while FC Bayern München’ goalkeeper Oliver Kahn was third.

Previous winners
Owen was humbled to win an award that has been collected by some of the greatest players of all time. "Marco van Basten won it three times," he added. "Michel Platini as well...add my name to that of [Franz] Beckenbauer, [Johan] Cruyff, Rivaldo, Bobby Charlton, Kevin Keegan...I am extremely proud."

Top ten
1. Michael Owen (Eng) (176 points) 2. Raúl González (Esp) (140) 3. Oliver Kahn (Ger) (114) 4. David Beckham (Eng) (102) 5. Francesco Totti (Ita) (57) 6. Luis Figo (Por) (56) 7. Rivaldo (Bra) (20) 8. Andrei Shevchenko (Ukr) (18) 9. Thierry Henry (Fra) (14) 9. Zinedine Zidane (Fra) (14)