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28 Agustus 2008

Ronaldo recognised as Europe's finest

Cristiano Ronaldo, the pivotal figure in Manchester United FC's march to UEFA Champions League glory last season, had more to celebrate today after collecting the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year prize at the awards ceremony in Monaco. The Portuguese international forward was also selected as the Best Forward while there was some consolation for Chelsea FC, the side United overcame in Moscow in May, as Petr Čech, John Terry and Frank Lampard were nominated as Best Goalkeeper, Defender and Midfielder respectively.
Sensational season
Ronaldo scored United's goal at the Luzhniki Stadium – his 42nd in all competitions in a prolific club campaign – and although he subsequently missed in the penalty shoot-out, United bounced back to become champions of Europe for the third time. It completed a sensational season for Ronaldo, who finished as the UEFA Champions League's eight-goal top scorer and also claimed the ESM Golden Shoe having struck 31 Premier League goals as United retained their title. The 23-year-old succeeds AC Milan's Kaká as the Club Footballer of the Year and is the second Portuguese international to land the prize after Deco in 2004. As he reflected upon the stars who had previously received the accolade, Ronaldo said: "It's a pleasure to be part of this magnificent group of players. To win this award is great for me and I feel very proud. The Champions League is a great level and to be one of the best players in it is great."

Forward accolade
Ronaldo also becomes the second United player to take home the overall award after David Beckham in 1999, while Ruud van Nistelrooy was voted Best Forward while at Old Trafford in 2003. Asked what was the secret of his success, Ronaldo replied: "Work. I think Manchester had a great season and I scored many goals. I feel very proud to be the best forward as I played as a winger – it is very good for me and gives me more ambition to become better. Thanks to all my team-mates and those that voted for me."
Chelsea cheer
Čech, meanwhile, beat off competition from United's Edwin van der Sar, Manuel Almunia, Manuel Neuer and Pepe Reina to lift the Best Goalkeeper gong for the second successive year and for the third time in total, having also been honoured in 2005. He was presented with his trophy by Peter Schmeichel, the winner of the inaugural prize in 1998. His abiding memory of the season was perhaps his role in the UEFA Champions League final penalty shoot-out. He said: "Of course it was difficult because it was only up to me and the five players who would shoot. But I tried to remember what I had seen from the videos I'd watched and what I'd talked about with other goalkeepers. This is what was going through my mind."

Terry honoured
Terry, who was handed his award by Franco Baresi, had been voted Best Defender in 2005, but was no less delighted about his latest silverware. "For me personally it's an amazing achievement," he said, adding: "To be a great defender you need a lot of attributes – to be quick, strong, good in the air and you also need plenty of great team-mates around you and I'm very lucky to have that." One of those colleagues, Lampard, became the first Chelsea player – and only the second English-based footballer after Beckham nine years ago – to take the midfield plaudits, given out by Sir Bobby Charlton. He said: "It feels very good. When you see the players that you're up against, there are some world-class players there. I've been up for the award for three years now so it's nice to finally win it."