Brazil's Ronaldo the king of Europe

Kieran Daley
Tuesday 17 December 2002 01:00
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Ronaldo was named European Footballer of the Year last night, capping his long comeback from injury. The Brazilian, who also won the Golden Ball in 1997, becomes the first non-European footballer to win the award twice.

After three injury-plagued years with Internazionale, Ronaldo announced his return to form with both goals in Brazil's World Cup final victory over Germany this summer before completing a £29.8m move to Real Madrid.

He takes over from Liverpool's Michael Owen, who last year became the first English player to win the trophy since Kevin Keegan in 1979. Ronaldo was given the award after coming top in an annual survey of 52 European journalists, conducted by France Football magazine.

Ronaldo's compatriot and Real team-mate Roberto Carlos was second, while the Germany and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Oliver Kahn was third. Today, Ronaldo is in the running to be named the Fifa World Player of the Year.

Fulham and Birmingham yesterday united to play down reports of an alleged players' lounge bust-up between Rufus Brevett and Clinton Morrison after Sunday's bad-tempered game at Loftus Road. The Cottagers left-back Brevett and the Blues striker Morrison were involved in a heated exchange during the match and afterwards. A linesman escorted Brevett off the pitch to prevent him confronting Morrison again.

Reports yesterday claimed that former QPR defender Brevett, 33, later squared up to 23-year-old Morrison in an alleged incident involving Morrison's mother. But both clubs dismissed suggestions of a bust-up in the players' bar after the game, which Birmingham won 1-0.

Sarah Brookes, a Fulham spokeswoman, said: "There was no incident between Brevett and Morrison – end of story. We have nothing else to report."

Sean Connor, a Birmingham spokesman, added: "It was a storm in a tea cup and we agree with Fulham's view. Both clubs are happy to forget about it and wish each other all the best for the rest of the season."

Fulham's assistant manager, Christian Damiano, admitted on Sunday night that Brevett had lost his cool on the pitch. He said: "It's frustrating when the game keeps stopping. Sometimes it's difficult to keep your focus – and it was like that for Rufus."

Andy D'Urso, the match referee, sent off Birmingham's centre-back Darren Purse and booked nine other players – half a dozen from the Blues and three from the home side.

The Manchester United midfielder David Beckham will be fit for the English League Cup quarter-final against Chelsea tomorrow. The club's manager Alex Ferguson said yesterday there were no injury worries for the players who took part in Saturday's 3-0 victory over West Ham United.

"All the players from Saturday are available," Ferguson said. "We have no injuries. Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] will be fit and all the ones who took little knocks will be OK."

Beckham, who has just recovered from cracked ribs, came on oon Saturday as a second half substitute for Solskjaer, scorer of United's opening goal.

Ferguson, though keener than in past seasons to do well in the League Cup, said he planned to play some of his less experienced players. But with Beckham looking to regain match fitness after three weeks out, the England captain is almost certain to play at Old Trafford.

The France captain Marcel Desailly rejoins the Chelsea squad after missing their 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough on Saturday, the London club said. Claudio Ranieri, manager of last season's semi-finalists, named 20 players for the trip to Old Trafford.

The Second Division leaders Wigan Athletic will be looking to take a fourth PremierLleague scalp when they entertain holders Blackburn Rovers. The north-western side upset Fulham, Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion in previous rounds.

"I suppose, on paper, we must be favourites," the Rovers manager Graeme Souness said. "But I have been involved in enough cup matches not to listen to too much of that."

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