Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo wins Ballon d'Or  

Posted by T ZAMAN in , , ,

Cristiano Ronaldo, the Manchester United forward, has won the Ballon d’Or, the prestigious trophy awarded by France Football magazine to the outstanding player in world football.

It is only the second time in the last 19 years that a player from the Premier League has won the award, the other being Michael Owen, the England international, in 2001 while he was with Liverpool. Ronaldo is also the first Manchester United winner since George Best in 1968. Originally known as the European Footballer of the Year award, it carries even more kudos these days, having been expanded to include players from all over the globe.

"It is one of the most beautiful days of my life," Ronaldo said: "To gain this trophy is something I dreamed of as a child. Great emotion fills me but I cannot really describe it.

"I want to thank those who voted for me, those who know me and those who live with me. I was not worried, because I was aware of what I did in the course of the season. But to the people who mentioned my name, I say thank you. Thank you also to my team-mates.

"This [trophy] is one that I want to win again because it is so good. Therefore, I will wake and I will say to myself 'I want to be even better'.

"I am only 23 years old and it is splendid, incredible. There were other great names this year. I see that Lionel Messi finished second and Fernando Torres third, but also [fifth-placed] Xavi ... all these people could have taken the trophy and I won it."

Ronaldo, who finished second to Kaka, of AC Milan, last year was the overwhelming choice this time around, having enjoyed a stunning season in which he scored 42 goals for United in all competitions. The Portugal international did, however, endure a disappointing Euro 2008, which took place when speculation over a possible move to Spanish giants Real Madrid was at its height. It mattered not to Europe's top journalists, as he collected 77 of the 96 first-place votes available and amassed 446 total points, two more than the Brazilian managed in winning 12 months ago. Ronaldo’s was the only name to appear on each of the 96 ballots, polling 446 points out of a maximum 480. Kaka did not feature in the top three this time around, with Lionel Messi of Barcelona coming second and Liverpool’s Fernando Torres third.

Ronaldo follows in some very famous footsteps, with previous winners including Brazil internationals Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Rivaldo, his Portugal compatriot Luis Figo and France midfielder Zinedine Zidane. Stanley Matthews was its first recipient, in 1956.

The winner is traditionally announced on the cover of France Football, the French magazine that awards the Ballon d’Or (or golden ball) when it hits newsstands on the first Tuesday in December, though the winner is generally known well in advance. This year, though, the organisers went out of their way to ensure that the final ranking was shrouded in secrecy.

They scrapped the traditional Sunday night television programme preceding the event, which gave away not just the winner, but the top places as well. And they did away with one of the Ballon d’Or’s longstanding traditions: a photo shoot with the winner holding the famous gold trophy, because the logistics of arranging time with the player and his club meant that news would leak out. Indeed, the winner was notified only at 11 o’clock last night, three hours before the winner was made public.

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