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Gerrard gains European acclaim

Three England-based players, including MVP Steven Gerrard, and two Brazilians won accolades at the UEFA Club Football Awards in Monaco.

Crucial goals
Gerrard was an inspiration for Liverpool on their way to glory in the 2004/05 Champions League, scoring the goal against Olympiacos CFP last December that took Rafael Benítez's side into the knockout stages of the competition. The English international midfielder crowned an exceptional campaign with the Reds' first goal in the final against AC Milan in Istanbul, sparking the Merseysiders' fightback from 3-0 down to victory on penalties.

Famous first
The 25-year-old therefore becomes the first captain of a Champions League-winning team to claim the Most Valuable Player award, although David Beckham (1999), Fernando Redondo (2000), Stefan Effenberg (2001), Zinedine Zidane (2002) and Deco (2004) all received the accolade in the same year they helped their respective sides triumph in Europe's premier club tournament.

'Favourite competition'
After collecting his award from UEFA President Lennart Johansson, Gerrard said: "I am still in shock. When I think of some of the players that have won this in the past, it is unbelievable. I am really honoured to be here. The Champions League is my favourite competition and I hope I will be involved in it for a long time."

Title glory
Gerrard's international team-mate Terry also enjoyed an excellent season in 2004/05, captaining Chelsea to their first English title in 50 years (and second overall) and scoring the goal that knocked FC Barcelona out of the Champions League as the west London club reached the semi-finals before losing to Liverpool. Terry, 24, missed only two games to help Chelsea to the Premiership crown by a 12-point margin.

Cech excellence
Another crucial factor in that success was the form of Czech international Cech, who conceded just 13 goals in 35 Premiership appearances and sat out only one of Chelsea's 12 Champions League matches. The 23-year-old becomes the second player from the Czech Republic to win a prize at the ceremony, following Pavel Nedved's Best Midfielder gong of 2003.

Kaká class
The remaining two winners were both Brazilian. Despite his side faltering at the last in both the Champions League and Serie A, Milan's Kaká claimed the Best Midfielder award having scored seven times in the Italian top flight and appeared in every leg of his team's run to Istanbul.

Ronaldinho recognised
Kaká's compatriot Ronaldinho was voted Best Forward and, remarkably, was the first Barcelona player to have his achievements recognised at the ceremony. The 25-year-old was the genius behind the club's first Primera División title in six seasons with nine goals, and also registered four in the Champions League including spectacular strikes against Milan and Chelsea.

Champion coaches
In addition, a number of special presentations took place, with Champion Coach awards going to Benítez and Valeri Gazzaev, the men behind Champions League winners Liverpool and PFC CSKA Moskva, triumphant in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup, respectively.

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