Thursday, 30 August 2007

Kaka the cream of Europe's finest

Having inspired AC Milan to Champions League glory last season, Kaka had further reason to celebrate today after collecting the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year prize.

As part of the draw for the Champions League group stage, the Brazilian was joined on the podium in Monaco by club-mates Paolo Maldini and Clarence Seedorf while only the presence of Petr Cech prevented a Rossoneri clean sweep.

Kaka may not have struck in the final in Athens, Filippo Inzaghi scoring both in the 2-1 defeat of Liverpool, but his ten goals in 13 games enabled the 25-year-old to finish comfortably ahead of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Peter Crouch, Fernando Morientes and Didier Drogba, all of whom scored six.

Kaka, who also won the Best Forward award, becomes the first Milan player to be named Club Footballer of the Year - an honour previously known as the Most Valuable Player award until the success of his countryman Ronaldinho last year. While Kaka was Best Forward, the accolade of Best Midfielder went to Seedorf following the Dutchman's renaissance last term.

After Carlo Ancelotti elected to push Seedorf into a more advanced role alongside Kaka in January, the 31-year-old responded with a series of electric displays and goals in the defeats of Bayern Munich and Manchester United en route to a fourth personal Champions League success with three different clubs.

Maldini was crowned Best Defender after his 22nd campaign as a Milan player ended with him lifting club football's most prestigious trophy for a fifth time. He may now be 39 and the oldest winner of such an award, but he promised more to come, saying: "We've been the best team in Italy, Europe and the world over the past 20 years. And the cycle hasn't ended yet."

Cech, meanwhile, came top in the goalkeeping category for the second time in three years despite missing three months of the 2006/07 campaign after suffering a fractured skull. The Chelsea No1 recently kept his 100th league clean sheet and was named the the best player in the Czech Republic for the third successive year.

Source: UEFA

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