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Monday, December 17, 2007

Ronaldo Third FIFA World Best Player 2007

ZURICH, Dec 17 (Reuters) - AC Milan playmaker Kaka added to his remarkable haul of trophies and titles on Monday when he was named FIFA World Player 2007.

The 25-year-old Brazilian international beat Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo in the annual poll of national team coaches and captains.

Kaka collected more points than the combined total of the other two nominees, world soccer's governing body FIFA said after the ceremony here. He won 1,047 votes while Argentine Messi gained 504 and Portuguese Ronaldo picked up 426.

Chelsea and Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba was fourth on 209. Barcelona and Brazil playmaker Ronaldinho, winner of the award in 2004 and 2005, came fifth.

'Tonight is really special for me,' said Kaka, who helped Milan to their seventh European Cup title in May and was also inspirational in Sunday's 4-2 Club World Cup final victory over Argentina's Boca Juniors.

'When I was young I dreamed of playing for Sao Paulo and playing just one game for the national team. That was it...but the Bible says God gives us more than we ask for and that is what has happened in my life.'

Kaka, a devoted Christian, was a heavy favourite to win Monday's prize after landing France Football magazine's prestigious Ballon d'Or and World Soccer magazine's World Player of the Year accolade.

'I had always thought about winning this (FIFA) award,' said Kaka. 'But there are always doubts until it is actually confirmed.

'It is not just this award but the whole year that has been very nice. Winning the Champions League and everything that has happened, it's just been wonderful.'

Kaka received his prize from compatriot and three-times World Cup winner Pele, who was himself given FIFA's presidential award for his lifetime contribution to the sport.

Although Kaka was rested for Brazil's successful Copa America campaign in June and July, Pele said his success with the national team had helped set him apart from the other nominated players.

'Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi have played some great football this year but they are not yet the most prominent players in their national teams,' Pele said.

'Kaka has been playing at this level for Brazil for four years now, he helps out in midfield and he is also a great example off the pitch. He's the complete player.'

Compatriot Marta completed Brazil's clean sweep at Monday's gala when she was named women's World Player for the second year running. Read more...

Anderson and Owen praised

Sir Alex Ferguson saluted the players making their first appearance against Liverpool after they helped to win his 50th game against the old enemy.

Anderson and Owen Hargreaves worked tirelessly in midfield to subdue Steven Gerrard and give United the platform to claim their fifth win in six league visits to Anfield.

"Anderson was terrific, he wasn’t intimidated by Steven Gerrard," Sir Alex told MUTV.

"I thought he handled that particular part of the game really well. Steven was actually quite quiet today. Hargreaves has got more experience obviously. Both of them did a great job."

The Anderson-Hargreaves axis underpinned an effective team display in which grit outweighed the grace. That said, the goal which separated the great rivals was fashioned by a clever piece of setpiece play. Instead of delivering an inswinger from the right, Giggs arrowed a pass to Rooney from the corner and his shot was turned in by Tevez.

"Ryan had the opportunity to do that with the corner kick prior to that one," said Sir Alex. "He could have used Owen Hargreaves because the corner of the box was free.

"But we took that opportunity the second time around and of course from Wayne Rooney's deflected shot, Carlos scored."

One goal was enough to win a game of few clearcut chances, just as it was last season when O'Shea scored at Anfield and in 2005 when Rooney was the match-winner there.

"This was a typical Liverpool-United game," assessed Sir Alex.

"The fans create such a fervour and it’s difficult for the referee. Flowing football isn’t the issue, it’s about winning the game. But in the moments when we did play football in the first half, we looked the better team.

"It’s a marvellous day for us - a good team performance and a great result. I said before the game that I feel the games between the top sides are going to be important this season.

"This is an important win for us. At the moment we’re top (prior to Arsenal playing Chelsea) and I hope we stay there at the end of the day.

"It’s going to be a long struggle to the end of the season. But if we can be top or thereabouts on New Year’s Day, we'll have an outstanding chance of retaining the title." Read more...

Fergie: Ain't no stopping us

Sir Alex Ferguson turned up the heat on Arsenal and roared: We’ll take some stopping now. Carlos Tevez struck the 44th-minute winner for Manchester United, who are now nine points ahead of Liverpool. Fergie said: “It’s a long fight, a long struggle. But I’ve always said that, if we get to around Christmas and New Year’s Day and we are top or thereabouts, we’ll have an outstanding chance of retaining our title.”
Phil Thomas, The Sun

Reds set for Ji-sung spark

Ji-sung Park is ready to play a part in United’s title charge when his injury nightmare finally ends in the coming weeks.

The Korean star is poised to return to action during the busy festive period after almost nine months out with a knee injury, and he has set his sights on adding to his tally of seven goals for the Reds.

"My knee is fine,” he told “It feels good and I don’t have any fear of pain. I have joined first-team training again and suffered no reaction.

“I am aiming to score when I return. If I score in my first two or three games back, I will gain confidence.

“Hopefully I can help the team as much as I can until the end of the season and we can win the title."

The 26-year-old winger suffered cruciate ligament damage against Blackburn in March and was forced to watch from the sidelines as the Reds reclaimed the Premier League crown in style.

Despite his excellent progress in recent weeks, Park knows he must not rush his comeback from such a serious injury.

“It will be up to the coaching staff and medical team when I return,” he said. “I’ve been out for eight months so I don’t want to rush back – I need time to get used to playing again.

“It has been frustrating to be injured for so long, but I’m looking forward to playing again and producing good performances.” Read more...

Anderson scoops award

Anderson saw off the threat of Steven Gerrard at Anfield and then did the same to Owen Hargreaves and Rio Ferdinand to be voted's Man of the Match.

The Brazilian midfielder was outstanding on Sunday alongside Owen Hargreaves. And it speaks volumes of how influential the 19-year-old was that he his central midfield partner and, especially Ferdinand, who was a colossal figure at the back for the Reds.

Anderson showed strength on the ball, maturity beyond his tender years, discpline in his positional play and excellent execution in his passing.

It certainly caught the eye of readers. A commanding 35 per cent of voters said Anderson was the star player in the 1-0 win.

Hargreaves finished second with 21 per cent of the votes, while Rio came in with 17 per cent in third place. United's goalscorer Carlos Tevez was fourth (11 per cent), narrowly ahead of Patrice Evra (10 per cent).

Aside from individual praise, victory would not have been possible had the team not worked so efficiently together. From Rooney's tireless work in attack to Nemanja Vidic's defensive dominance, the vital win at Anfield was largely a result of the Reds' team ethic. Read more...