Cristiano Ronaldo was named as FIFA World Player of the Year for 2008 on Monday and became the first Premier League player to get the award at a star-studded gala in Zurich.
The 23-year-old was in stunning form last term when he helped Manchester United to Premier League and European Cup success hitting 42 goals in the process, and after FIFA’s annual poll of international team coaches and captains he has added the world governing body’s prize to the prestigious Ballon d’Or which he has already received.
Ronaldo received the award from Pele, and said: ”It is an overwhelming moment and a very special moment in my life and I would like to say to my mother and sister that the fireworks can be set off now.
”I’m extremely happy, it’s one of the most important moments in my life and I hope I can come back.”
Ronaldo, who also won FIFA’s Club World Cup with United in 2008, faced competition from fellow nominees Xavi Hernandez, Fernando Torres, Lionel Messi and Kaka.
Messi finished in second place and Torres came third ahead of fourth-placed Kaka and Xavi.
Ronaldo becomes the first player from the Premier League to win the coveted title, which has so far only been awarded to players based at clubs in Italy or Spain; while Marta, Olympic silver medallist with Brazil, was later named the FIFA women’s player of the year for the third successive time.
“There may be no English players here but I believe it’s important for England that myself and Fernando Torres are here representing two English clubs,” said Ronaldo before the ceremony.
“It is a victory for the English fans as well because the Premier League is strong, even though we must not forget the leagues in Spain and Italy remain strong as well.”
Ronaldo dedicated the award to his family but also paid tribute to influence of United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
He said: ”It’s a dream come true for me to get this award and I would like to dedicate this to my family.
”But it’s also true that the manager always has an important role to play. It was a great season for me and for my club, and the coach was important for me because I learned a lot for him.
”His experience over so many years is of paramount importance – it’s a privilege to have such a great club manager.
”This is the climax of a fantastic era for me. I’m happy and proud about what has been done by my team and what we have won. I am lucky to to be part of the history of a club like Manchester United.”