Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro was elected European Footballer of
the Year (Ballon d'Or) Monday, the first defender in 10 years to
win the prestigious award.
The 33-year-old defender took the honor with 173 points ahead of
Juventus and Italy teammate, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (124) and
Arsenal's French striker Thierry Henry (121).
"It has a double importance because it's given to the greatest
players and as a defender it's rare to have this honour," said
France's Zinedine Zidane, who retired after reaching the World
Cup finals, came fifth with 71 points.
Last year's winner, Barcelona star Ronaldinho, placed fourth
this time largely due to a disappointing welcome in which Brazil
crashed out at the quarter-final stage against France.
Cannavaro said that his personal choice of winner would have
been Buffon "because he's a friend and a phenomenon", followed by
Henry, who was runner-up in 2003, and Italian midfielder Andrea
"Gigi (Buffon) is in the goalkeepers category but he's also in a
class of his own," said Cannavaro -- who joined the Spanish Real
Madrid outfit from Juventus in July.
"A player like Thierry Henry has incredible qualities. He's been
in the running for so many years... I'm sorry but it's not my
fault, I'm not the one who votes."
The 51st Ballon d'Or, also called the Golden Ball award, was
organized by French football magazine, France Football, and decided
after votes from European football's leading journalists.
(Xinhua News Agency November 28, 2006)