Simply the best

Ronaldinho became the third Brazilian to be crowned European Footballer of the Year in Paris last week. This was the 50th edition of the award which was first won by Stanley Matthews back in 1956. Since that time, such greats as Dennis Law, Bobby Charlton and George Best have been successful for Britain, with Kevin Keegan in 1978 and 79 the only double winner. Superstars Michelle Platini, Johann Cruijff and Marco van Basten went one better, each taking the award on three occasions.

Ronaldinho, instrumental in Barcelona’s return to the top over the past two years, was also voted best in the world by Fifa last season, and beat off the challenges of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Thierry Henry, who finished second, third and fourth in this poll. Last year’s winner, Andrei Shevchenko took fifth, while John Terry (10th) and Jamie Carragher (20th) were two further English players in the top 20. Cristiano Ronaldo came closest to emulating previous Portuguese winners Eusebio and Figo.

Ronaldinho and Lampard, together with Samuel Eto’s are also on Fifa’s 2005 three-man short-list for the world title, to be decided on December 19 in Zurich. At that time the best female player in the world will also be announced, with Birgit Prinz (Germany), Marta (Brazil) and Shannon Boxx (US) the candidates. As opposed to the European award, which is decided upon by the France Football magazine, the ‘World Footballer of the Year’ is elected by the managers and captains of Fifa members.