Ronaldo scoops Ballon d'Or

Cristiano Ronaldo hailed "one of the most beautiful days of my life" and vowed to keep improving after winning the prestigious Ballon d'Or award in the early hours of the morning.

The Manchester United winger was named as 2007 winner Kaka's successor at 0200 GMT after convincingly seeing off competition from Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Liverpool striker Fernando Torres.

Of the 96 top journalists polled by France Football magazine, 77 voted the Portugal winger as their number one player this year and every one placed him in their top five after he scored 42 goals in United's Barclays Premier League and Champions League winning season.

He polled a massive 446 points from a maximum 480, finishing comfortably ahead of second-placed Messi (281) and third-placed Torres (179).

In so doing the 23-year-old becomes the third Portuguese player to lift the famous trophy - after legendary pair Eusebio and Luis Figo - and joins fellow Red Devils George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton in taking the gong.

A total of 11 Barclays Premier League players earned votes, with England internationals Steven Gerrard (ninth), Wayne Rooney (13th) and Frank Lampard (15th) flying the flag for Fabio Capello's side.

Despite the good showing for the the division, Ronaldo is just the second England-based player to win the award since Best in 1968. Michael Owen, in 2001, is the other.

Speaking to, Ronaldo said: "It is one of the most beautiful days of my life. To gain this trophy is something I dreamed of as a child.

"Great emotion fills me but I cannot really describe it.

"I want to thank those who voted for me, those who know me and those who live with me.

"I was not worried, because I was aware of what I did in the course of the season.

"But to the people who mentioned my name, I say thank you. Thank you also to my team-mates.

"This (trophy) is one that I want to win again because it is so good. Therefore, I will wake and I will say to myself 'I want to be even better'."

Ronaldo admitted he was proud to be take the honour ahead of a host of world stars.

"I am only 23 years old and it is splendid, incredible," he continued.

"There were other great names this year. I see that Lionel Messi finished second and Fernando Torres third, but also (fifth-placed) Xavi...all these people could have taken the trophy and I won it."

Ronaldo's 42 club goals last season propelled United to glory in both the Barclays Premier League and Champions League.

His summer efforts at Euro 2008 were less spectacular - he found the net just once before Portugal were eliminated at the quarter-final stage - and overshadowed by a long-running transfer tussle involving Real Madrid but his achievements continue to be recognised.

He is already FIFPro World Player of the Year and also took the top domestic prizes from the Professional Footballers' Association and the Football Writers last season.

An ankle injury prevented Ronaldo from taking his sterling form into the start of this term, but he has been quick to find his stride since returning to fitness, scoring nine times.