Ronaldinho, Henry, Eto’o nominated

Paris, October 17:

Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o and holder Ronaldinho were among the 50 nominees for the 2006 Golden Ball trophy. The list of nominees for the prestigious European player of the year award was published on Tuesday by France Football magazine.

There were 11 Frenchmen in the list including Henry and Zinedine Zidane, and seven members of Italy’s World Cup-winning squad. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and captain Fabio Cannavaro were included, but defender Marco Materazzi was not. FC Barcelona’s Ronaldinho won last year with 225 points, followed by Chelsea’s Frank Lampard (148) and Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard (142). The winner is chosen by the magazine’s annual poll of 52 journalists from around the world.

Gerrard and Lampard were among this year’s candidates, but Ronaldinho said Arsenal’s Henry and Barcelona teammates Eto’o and Deco will be his main challengers.

Despite ending up on the losing side in the Champions League and World Cup finals, Henry’s prolific scoring for Arsenal makes him a major candidate for the Golden Ball. Top scorer in the English Premier League with 27 goals last season, Henry was voted league player of the year for a record third time by English soccer writers. Real Madrid, meanwhile, had only three. Aside from Zidane, Madrid’s two other representatives — Fabio Cannavaro and Mahamadou Diarra — joined from other clubs.