Real Madrid defender Fabio Cannavaro has won recognition for his stunning World Cup performance as Italy skipper by winning the prestigious European Footballer of the Year Award (Ballon d'Or).
The 33-year-old Neapolitan succeeds Barcelona star Ronaldinho, winner of last year's award, but who placed fourth this time largely as a result of his World Cup performance as Brazil crashed in the quarter-finals to France.
Cannavaro with 173 points took the honour yesterday ahead of Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (124) of Italy and Arsenal's French striker Thierry Henry (121).
France's Zinedine Zidane, who retired after reaching the World Cup finals, placed fifth with 71 points.
"I want to thank Real president Raman Calderon and my teammates from Juve and the national team who had an important part to play in my winning this award," said Cannavaro.
"It has a double importance because it's given to the greatest players and as a defender it's rare to have this honour.
"The World Cup in Germany was perfect for a defender. I remember in particular the semi-final against Germany."
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 Pirlo.
"Gigi (Buffon) is in the goalkeepers category but also apart in that he's in a class of his own," said the Real Madrid defender.