Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro has been named European Footballer of the Year by France Football magazine.
The 33-year-old Real Madrid defender, who captained the Azzurri to victory at the World Cup in Germany, becomes one of the few defenders to win the prize.
Cannavaro won the 51st edition of the award with 173 points, ahead of Juventus' Gianluigi Buffon (124) and Arsenal's Thierry Henry (121).
The Ballon d'Or award is based on a vote by European football journalists.
France midfielder Zinedine Zidane, who retired after reaching the World Cup finals, was placed fifth with 71 points. Last year's European Footballer award went to Barcelona's Brazil playmaker Ronaldinho, who finished fourth this time around.
Cannavaro is the fifth Italian to win the award after Omar Sivori (1961), Gianni Rivera (1969), Paolo Rossi (1982) and Roberto Baggio (1993).
He also revealed that the award had extra significance as he became the first defender to win since Germany's Mathias Sammer in 1996. "It has a double importance because it's given to the greatest players and as a defender it's rare to have this honour," said the delighted Neapolitan. "The World Cup in Germany was perfect for a defender. I remember in particular the semi-final against Germany."
Capped 105 times for his country, the former Juve defender was one of seven nominated players from the Italian national team that captured its fourth World Cup title.
The prize represents the ideal end to an amazing year for Cannavaro, who won the Scudetto with Juventus before the Bianconeri were stripped of the title, and then led his country to World Cup glory before moving to Real Madrid in the summer.
"I want to thank Real president Raman Calderon and my team-mates from Juve and the national team who had an important part to play in my winning this award," Cannavaro said. "Many people analysed my season with Juve in 2005 for this vote. In that season I played 37 matches and scored four crucial goals."
“I want to bring this trophy to Naples, beacuse it is a town that is living a very particular moment. I also want to tell the Naples children that they must believe in dreams, because sometimes they do come true,” added the 33-year-old.
1) Fabio Cannavaro (Real Madrid) 173
2) Gainluigi Buffon (Juventus) 124
3) Thierry Henry (Arsenal) 121
4) Ronaldinho (Barcelona) 73
5) Zinedine Zidane (retired) 71
6) Samuel Eto'o (Barcelona) 67
7) Miroslav Klose (Werder Bremen) 29
8) Didier Drogba (Chelsea) 25
9) Andrea Pirlo (Milan) 17
10) Jens Lehmann (Arsenal) 13
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