AC Milan and Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko has been named European Footballer of the Year.
The 28-year-old finished as top scorer in Serie A in the 2003/04 season with 24 goals as Milan won the title in convincing fashion. Shevchenko has showed no sign of slowing down in the present campaign, with three goals in five UEFA Champions League matches and eleven more strikes in the Italian top flight.
Shevchenko succeeds Juventus FC midfielder Pavel Nedved as the winner of the Ballon d'Or, which has been organised by France Football since 1956, beating the likes of FC Barcelona forward Ronaldinho and Arsenal FC striker Thierry Henry who are in the running with the Ukrainian for next week's FIFA World Player of the Year award.
Deco in second place
Shevchenko collected 175 votes in the France Football poll, with Barcelona's Portuguese international Deco in second place with 139 votes. His Camp Nou team-mate Ronaldinho was third with 133 votes and French international Henry fourth with 80 votes.
"I'm very happy to have received this award," Shevchenko said. "I'd like to thank all those who helped me, especially my fellow Ukrainians. I'm Ukrainian and proud of it. I dedicate this award to my people."
Third Ukrainian winner
Shevchenko is the third Ukrainian to win the award, following Oleh Blokhin and Ihor Belanov, who took the title in 1975 and 1986 respectively while representing the Soviet Union. "I grew up in Ukraine and saw Belanov and Blokhin win the Golden Ball," he said. "They were my first idols." His success is the seventh time a Milan player has won the coveted award, with only Juventus, on eight, boasting more titles.