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Buffon voted season's finest

Gianluigi Buffon won Most Valuable Player at the 2003 UEFA European Football Awards.

Gianluigi Buffon received the Most Valuable Player award at the UEFA European Football Awards ceremony in Monaco on the eve of the season curtain-raising UEFA Super Cup. The Juventus FC player is the first goalkeeper to receive the top prize at the awards, which reward performances in the previous season's UEFA club competition campaigns.

Best player
After accepting the Best Goalkeeper award from former Manchester United FC player George Best, Buffon was later called back on stage to accept the Most Valuable Player from Prince Albert of Monaco. The Italian international goalkeeper produced a string of superb saves as Juventus reached the UEFA Champions League final and produced an inspirational performance in the showpiece itself, even though Juve were ultimately edged out on penalties by AC Milan.

Top trio
As well as Buffon in the goalkeeper section, there were three other main category winners. Real Madrid CF's Roberto Carlos was presented with the Best Defender accolade by Roberta Bettega, Pavel Nedved received the Best Midfielder award from Didier Deschamps, while Manchester United's Ruud van Nistelrooij's scoring exploits saw him presented with the Best Forward award by a former United scoring sensation, Sir Bobby Charlton.

Maldini tribute
In addition, Milan's Paolo Maldini received the UEFA President's Award from Lennart Johansson in recognition of a long career at the highest level for club and country and loyalty to the club he joined as a boy.

Sharpshooter Makaay
There were several other presentations during the lavish ceremony. Roy Makaay received the ESM Golden Shoe from Eusébio; the UEFA Cup-winning coach, José Mourinho of FC Porto, received a trophy from Vicente Del Bosque; while the winning coach in the Champions League, Carlo Ancelotti of Milan, received an award from by Ruud Gullit.

Charity presentation
Meanwhile, the UEFA Chief Executive Gerhard Aigner presented the UEFA Charity Cheque for one million Swiss francs, to the referee of this season's UEFA Champions League final, Markus Merk. The sum is to be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Dutchman Aron Winter also received a Special Award from UEFA President Lennart Johansson as a tribute not only to his distinguished career in the game but also his stance against racism.

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