AC Milan's attacking midfielder Kaká has been voted the European Footballer of the Year, collecting the Ballon d'Or live on French television on Sunday morning.
The Brazilian international told free-to-air channel TV TF1: "This award crowns an outstanding year for me. I thank God for this prize, which is the biggest any player can win, and also my wife and my parents. But to get a trophy like this, you also need to have a winning team around you, that's essential – so I'm grateful to Milan and to Brazil."
The 25-year-old helped Milan win the UEFA Champions League last season, scoring a campaign-best ten goals for the Italian club en route to their final victory against Liverpool FC in Athens. "This is fully deserved," said Rossoneri coach Carlo Ancelotti. "Not just for his game but also for his image. He is a great person."
The former São Paulo FC player also scored Milan's third goal in their 3-1 defeat of Sevilla FC in the UEFA Super Cup match in August. He claimed 444 points in the vote for the award, with Cristiano Ronaldo (277) and Lionel Messi (255) the next best nominees. The Ballon d'Or, which in 2006 went to Italy's Fabio Cannavaro, was this year decided by a worldwide representation of 96 journalists, rather than by the previous poll of European football journalists.
The European Footballer of the Year competition continues to be organised by France Football magazine, which inaugurated the award in 1956. Completing the list of this year's top players were: Didier Drogba, Andrea Pirlo, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Cesc Fabregas, Robinho, Francesco Totti, Frédéric Kanouté, Ronaldinho, Steven Gerrard, Juan Román Riquelme, Daniel Alves, Filippo Inzaghi, Franck Ribéry, Paolo Maldini, Gianluigi Buffon, Petr Čech, Gennaro Gattuso, Thierry Henry, and Clarence Seedorf.
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