Ronaldinho acclaimed as European player of year

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The Independent Online

The Barcelona playmaker Ronaldinho has been named the 2005 European Footballer of the Year. The Brazilian beat the English duo Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard to win the 50th edition of France Football magazine's prestigious Ballon D'Or award at a gala ceremony in Paris last night.

Ronaldinho was the overwhelming winner, his 225 points far ahead of Chelsea's Lampard (148) and Liverpool's Gerrard (142). They were well clear of Arsenal's Thierry Henry in fourth.

The 25-year-old becomes the fifth Barça player to pick up the award, voted for by European football journalists, since Blackpool's Stanley Matthews won the inaugural Ballon D'Or in 1956. He follows Luis Suarez (1960), Johan Cruyff (1973 and 1974), Hristo Stoichkov(1994) and compatriot Rivaldo (1999) after it became open to non-Europeans.

Ronaldinho was instrumental in Barcelona clinching their first La Liga title since 1999 last season, scoring nine goals and providing many more. His fine form has continued this season, a penalty in Sunday's win over Racing Santander bringing him level with last term's haul after 12 games.

His recent performance in Barcelona's 3-0 win at Real Madridearned him a standing ovation from the Bernabeu crowd, an honour only previously bestowed on a Barça player when Diego Maradona played there in the 1980s.

The England captain David Beckham paid tribute to Ronaldinho. The Real Madrid midfielder said: "He is an immense talent, and ripped our defence apart a few weeks back - that is the sort of player he is.He deserves his award because he is a great player."

Sir Bobby Charlton and Denis Law attended the ceremony to collect a replica of the 1968 European Footballer of the Year trophy which George Best lost.

European Footballer of the Year 2005: 1 Ronaldinho (Brazil/Barcelona) 225 points; 2 Frank Lampard (England/Chelsea) 148; 3 Steven Gerrard (England/Liverpool) 142; 4 Thierry Henry (France/Arsenal) 41; 5 Andrei Shevchenko (Ukraine/Milan) 33; 6 Paolo Maldini (Italy/Milan) 23; 7 Adriano (Brazil/Internazionale) 22; 8 Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden/Juventus) 21; 9 Kaka (Brazil/Milan) 19; 10= Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon/Barcelona) 18; 10= John Terry (England/Chelsea) 18.

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