Manchester United FC and Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo has won the 2008 Ballon d'Or, the coveted prize awarded by France Football for the European Player of the Year.
Ronaldo topped the poll of 96 journalists worldwide organised by the French magazine and becomes the third Portuguese player to win the award following Eusébio in 1965 and Luís Figo in 2000. "I dreamt of this when I was younger," the former Sporting Clube de Portugal player said at Sunday's ceremony in Paris. "It's a great day for me and my family. The Ballon d'or has been won by two great Portuguese players and for me to be part of that history is a great feeling. It's incredible considering I only started my career a few years ago. I must thank all the people who voted for me and especially my team-mates who passed the ball to me to allow me to be the best."
The 23-year-old, who succeeds AC Milan's Brazilian playmaker Kaká, enjoyed another outstanding season for United in 2007/08, propelling Sir Alex Ferguson's side to the UEFA Champions League and Premier League titles. Ronaldo's 31 Premier League goals earned him the European Golden Shoe, contributing to a total of 42 as he also finished top scorer in the UEFA Champions with seven, including one in the final against Chelsea FC.
Success at club level, however, was tinged with disappointment on the international stage as his much-fancied Portugal side failed to advance beyond the quarter-finals of UEFA EURO 2008™. An ankle injury and constant speculation linking him with a move to Real Madrid CF compounded a difficult summer, but Ronaldo soon recovered his scoring form on his return to the United side in September and has already claimed ten goals in eleven league apppearances this season. Ronaldo becomes the fourth United player to pick up the award, following in the illustrious footsteps of George Best (1968), Sir Bobby Charlton (1966) and Denis Law (1964).
Ronaldo finished first in the voting on 446 points, ahead of FC Barcelona and Argentina striker Lionel Messi (281 points) and Liverpool FC and Spain forward Fernando Torres (179). Iker Casillas (133) and Xavi Hernández (97), two other members of Spain's UEFA EURO 2008™ winning squad, completed the top five. Ronaldo was also voted FIFPro World Player of the Year for the 2007/08 season in October and UEFA Club Footballer of the Year in August. As the Portuguese newspaper Record points out, "
only the FIFA World Player of the Year award is missing from a clean sweep". Ronaldo will have to wait until 12 January to learn if he has won that too.
Past ten Ballon d'Or winners
2006 Fabio Cannavaro
2004 Andrei Shevchenko
2003 Pavel Nedvěd
2001 Michael Owen
2000 Luís Figo
1998 Zinédine Zidane
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