Ronaldo wins Golden Ball award

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Cristiano Ronaldo won the Golden Ball awarded to the European Footballer of the Year on Tuesday.

Updated: December 02, 2008 18:04 IST
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Cristiano Ronaldo won the Golden Ball awarded to the European Footballer of the Year on Tuesday, becoming the fourth Manchester United player to take the honor and the first since fellow winger George Best in 1968.

Ronaldo's brilliant scoring form helped him beat Barcelona striker Lionel Messi into second place, while Liverpool forward Fernando Torres was third in the poll results announced overnight by France Football magazine.

"It's one of the greatest days of my life. Winning this trophy ... I dreamed about it as a kid," France Football quoted Ronaldo as saying. "Those who know me, who live with me, know that this is finally a dream come true for me."

Ronaldo dominated the voting, tallying 446 points. Messi had 281 points and Torres had 179.

That gave Ronaldo two points more than Kaka tallied to win last year's award.

"I am only 23 and it's magnificent. Unbelievable. It's even better considering all the big names in contention this year," Ronaldo said. "Lionel Messi is second and Fernando Torres is third, but also Xavi (Hernandez, in fifth place)."

Ronaldo praised his teammates for helping him, and said he hopes to win the award again.

"They are the ones who passed the ball for me to score goals," he said. "What is for sure is that I want to win it again, it feels so good. So, (next morning), at eight O'clock, I will wake up and tell myself I want to be even better."

Last year Ronaldo was second with 277 points, while Messi was third with 255. Last year's winner Kaka, Milan's Brazilian playmaker, slipped to eighth in this year's awards with only 31 points.

Ronaldo scored 42 goals in all competitions last season as United won the Premier League and Champions League trophies.

The 23-year-old Ronaldo adds the Ballon d'Or award to the FIFPro World Player of the Year trophy he won in October, and the Professional Footballers Association and the Football Writers awards.

He also becomes the first Premier League player to win since former Liverpool forward Michael Owen in 2001, and the first Portuguese player since winger Luis Figo won it with Real Madrid in 2000, and the third after Eusebio in 1965.

France Football's award was decided by an annual poll of football journalists with a short list of 30 players.

Following Portugal's disappointing showing at the European Championship in June, Ronaldo underwent an operation to his troublesome right ankle injury in July that then kept him sidelined until Sept. 17.

After a slow start, he appeared to be heading back to top form with eight league goals in 11 games until Sunday's red card against Manchester City drew headlines for the wrong reason.

Already booked for a needless foul on Manchester City's Shaun Wright-Phillips, Ronaldo jumped to meet a corner kick and, instead of heading the ball toward the City goal, batted it down with his hands.

To his amazement, he was shown a second yellow card followed swiftly by the red one. He later said he thought he had heard the referee blow his whistle and that's why he handled the ball.

The 21-year-old Messi scored several breathtaking goals for Barca last season, and also helped Argentina defeat Nigeria 1-0 to win the Olympic gold medal at Beijing in August.

Messi has stepped up his form since then, with nine league goals in 11 games for Barca _ one less than he got in 27 games last season _ as he continues to develop a flourishing partnership with Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o.

"He is the kind of player I really like," Kaka said. "Like Cristiano Ronaldo, he dribbles, he scores. Messi often does it all on his own."

Torres helped Spain win the European Championship in June, scoring the lone goal in the final against Germany. Torres, hit by several niggling injuries this term, also scored 24 league goals in his debut season with the Reds but has struggled so far this season.

Ronaldo's United teammates Wayne Rooney, Edwin van der Sar and Nemanja Vidic were nominated, as were Chelsea's Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard.

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