Golden Ball 2008 – C-Ron Gets B-D’or, Italy Gets Nothing

Chalk up one more trophy for CR7, this one the biggest and most important one of them all.

In a decision that surprised no one given the player’s outstanding performances over the past year (both domestically and in Europe), French magazine France Football has handed its prestigious Ballon d’Or award to Cristiano Ronaldo.

C-Ron was a clear winner, collecting 77 first-place votes from the 96 journalists judging the award (asked to choose their top 5 candidates in order, awarding between 1 and 5 points to each). It must also be noted that Ronaldo was cited by all 96 journalists, collecting a total of 446 points which placed him very far ahead of his rivals. Barcelona hitman Lionel Messi (third last year) finished second this time around with 281 points, followed by Liverpool’s Fernando Torres on 179 to complete the podium.

The 23-year-old Portuguese international led Manchester United to the Premier League and UEFA Champions League titles last term, netting some 42 goals along the way – an incredible feat for a player who predominately plays on the right flank. It is just the latest of many individual triumphs for the former Sporting Lisbon sensation, who was dubbed Player of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association in 2006-07. He was recently also named the 2008 FIFPro World Player of the Year, and will only need the “FIFA World Player of the Year” crown to complete a pretty successful 2008.

Ronaldo becomes the 4th Manchester United star to claim the Ballon d’Or, following in the footsteps of Denis Law (1964), Sir Bobby Charlton (1966) and George Best (1968), and the first Premier League player to win the award since Michael Owen in 2001.



The Italian Chapter

As sadly pointed out by Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy have San Marino to thank this year. Had it not been for the 5 points assigned to Gianluigi Buffon by the San Marinese journalist (Marco Zunino), Italian players would have collected zero points in the 2008 Ballon d’Or rankings. Luca Toni received none.

In 53 Ballon d’Or editions Italy performed worse only 7 times, the latest on record being year 1992 (Franco Baresi collecting 3 points, and Paolo Maldini 1), when the Azzurri failed to qualify for the European Championship tournament. Only two times did Italian players collect zero points: in 1959 and 1985.

Serie A players didn’t do too well this year either, the highest placed being Kaka (8th with 31 points), while Inter’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic was 9th with 30. On the other hand, Serie A still leads the all-time records for highest number of winners: 20 players from Italy’s top-flight competition have won the Ballon d’Or so far, followed by the Spanish Liga (13), Bundesliga (9) and Premier League (6).

As far as team-ranking goes, Serie A is also still well-represented because Juventus (9) and AC Milan (8 winners) lead the charts of teams with the highest number of winners (Barcelona is tied for second with 8). Juventus also have the record for consecutive wins (4) through Paolo Rossi (1982) and Michel Platini’s hat-trick (1983-1986).

An interesting bit of information regards the number of voting members of this (and last year’s) edition. From the year of its inception (1956) to 2006 (Cannavaro’s triumph), the voting-body was composed strictly of European-based journalists (one for each UEFA-affiliated nation). Since last year, the jury expanded to 96 voters (one for each country who qualified at least once for the FIFA World Cup), resulting in the total number of votes to explode through the roof in the past two years.

Full Ballon d’Or 2008 Rankings

Rank Player Nationality Club Points
1 Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal Man Utd 446
2 Lionel Messi Argentina Barcelona 281
3 Fernando Torres Spain Liverpool 179
4 Iker Casillas Spain Real Madrid 133
5 Xavi Hernandez Spain Barcelona 97
6 Andrei Arshavin Russia Zenit 64
7 David Villa Spain Valenica 55
8 Kaka Brazil AC Milan 31
9 Zlatan Ibrahimovic Sweden Inter Milan 30
10 Steven Gerrard England Liverpool 28
11 Marcos Senna Spain Villarreal 16
12 Emmanuel Adebayor Togo Arsenal 12
13 Wayne Rooney England Man Utd 11
14 Sergio Aguero Argentina Atl. Madrid 10
15 Frank Lampard England Chelsea 8
16 Franck Ribery France Bayern 7
17 Samuel Eto’o Cameroon Barcelona 6
18 Gianluigi Buffon Italy Juventus 5
19 Michael Ballack Germany Chelsea 4
Cesc Fabregas Spain Arsenal
21 Didier Drogba Côte d’Ivoire Chelsea 3
Sergio Ramos Spain Real Madrid
Nemanja Vidic Serbia Man Utd
24 Edwin van der Sar Netherlands Manchester 2
Ruud van Nistelrooy Netherlands Real Madrid
Unrnk. Karim Benzema France Lyon /
Pepe Brazil Real Madrid
Luca Toni Italy Bayern
Rafael van der Vaart Netherlands Real Madrid
Yuri Zhirkov Russia CSKA Mosc.

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