Ronaldinho wins Ballon d’Or award

Pais, November 29:

Brazil and Barcelona midfielder Ronaldinho was named the 50th European footballer of the year at a lavish ceremony .

Ronaldinho, who finished third last year behind 2004 winner Andriy Shevc-henko, was awarded the prize run since 1956 by France Football magazine with 225 points. He became the third Brazilian to win the Ballon d’Or after Ronaldo (1997 and 2002) and Rivaldo (1999).

Ronaldinho added the award to his 2004 FIFA World Player of the Year title and the inaugural honour from FIFpro, the international players’ union. Chelsea’s Frank Lampard came second with 148 poi-nts from the 52 voting journalists, one from each of the continent’s association countries, and England’s Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, came third.

Thierry Henry France, was fourth on 41 points. Ronaldinho’s prize, largely representing the player’s performances last season, was hotly-anticipated. The former Gremio (Brazil) and Paris St Germain midfielder, who first stepped on to European soil as a player in 2001 to play in the French league, helped Brazil win the Confederations Cup this year.

He has also played a pivotal role in Barcelona’s resurgence in the Spanish league last season when the Catalan giants won the league trophy after a six-year hiatus. Despite being a huge talent both at club and international level, Barcelona seems to have brought the best out of the flamboyant long-haired midfielder, whose mazy turns, deft feints and superb goalscoring ability has left many a defender kicking out at thin air.

His ball skills, some of which have spawned their own names, have long been compared to those of his esteemed compatriot Pele, to whom he was compared six years ago at the Copa America in Paraguay when he scored a similar goal to the one scored by the Brazil legend against Wales at 1958 World Cup.

The award has been open to players of any nationality playing in a UEFA affiliated team since 1995 when Liberia’s George Weah won it. Previously, only players of European origin were eligible.