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Nedved claims Ballon d'Or

Juventus FC's Czech midfield player Pavel Nedved has been named European Footballer of the Year.

Juventus FC midfield player Pavel Nedved has been voted European Footballer of the Year, organisers France Football magazine have announced.

Fine year
The 31-year-old Czech international claimed his first Ballon d'Or - Golden Ball - after inspiring Juve's run to the 2002/03 Scudetto and UEFA Champions League final, a match Nedved missed through suspension. On the international stage he helped the Czech Republic win UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifying Group 3 ahead of the Netherlands, and they are considered serious contenders to triumph in Portugal.

Nedved stunned
"I did not even dream of winning such an award," said Nedved. "I'm very happy to receive such an important, such an extraordinary honour. I heard about the nominees and being among them but I did not fancy my chances too much. A lot of players had good seasons like Paolo Maldini, Raúl [González], [Zinedine] Zidane. All of them deserved to win."

Henry pipped
Nedved was also named 2003 Czech athlete of the year this week. He is the first Czech to claim the Ballon d'Or since Josef Masopust claimed the award in 1962. In the vote of journalists from UEFA's 52 member countries, he finished 62 points ahead of his nearest competitior, Arsenal FC's French striker Thierry Henry.

Madrid quartet
Paolo Maldini's reward for leading AC Milan to the Champions League title was third place, while last year's winner Ronaldo ended eleventh. However, four of his Real Madrid CF team-mates - Zinedine Zidane, Raúl González, Roberto Carlos and summer signing David Beckham - made the top ten. Zidane was recently named 2003 FIFA World Player of the Year, but was only fifth in this poll.

1 Pavel Nedved (Juventus FC) 190 points
2 Thierry Henry (Arsenal FC) 128
3 Paolo Maldini (AC Milan) 123
4 Andriy Shevchenko (AC Milan) 67
5 Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid CF) 64
6 Ruud van Nistelrooij (Manchester United FC) 61
7 Raúl González (Real Madrid CF) 32
8 Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid CF) 27
9 Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus FC) 19
10 David Beckham (Manchester United FC & Real Madrid CF) 17  

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