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Ronaldo thanks medical team

Madrid: Ronaldo dedicated his third Fifa World Player of the Year award, which he won on Tuesday (as briefly reported in Wednesday’s late edition), to the medical team which helped him recover from the injury problems that threatened his career .

The 26-year-old Brazilian roared back from four years blighted by physical problems to lead Brazil to World Cup glory in South Korea and Japan this year with eight goals.

His reward on Tuesday was Fifa’s top honour for a player, to add to the European Player of the Year award given to him by France Football on Monday.

“There’s millions of people I’d like to dedicate the award to,” Ronaldo told a news conference in Madrid, where he received the award on Tuesday.

“I’d mainly like to thank the medical team that brought me back from two extremely difficult years. That’s my doctor Gerard Saillant, the Inter Milan doctor Franco Combi and physiotherapist Nilton Petrone.

“I’ll also dedicate the award to my family, friends and to everybody.”

Ronaldo won the Fifa award in 1996 and again the following year but even he doubted his chances of ever receiving it again after a dreadful run of injuries, particularly over the two years before the World Cup.

“It’s highly satisfying after the years of doubt and injuries,” he said. “I was worried if I’d even be able to play again but now it’s as good as I’d hoped or dreamed it could be.”

Ronaldo finished ahead of Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn and France midfielder Zinedine Zidane in the voting by national team coaches. Zidane had also been hoping to become the first player to win the award three times after his 1998 and 2000 successes.

Each coach voted for their three players with five points awarded for first place, three for second and one for third.

Ronaldo won with a total of 387 points as 59 of 148 voting national coaches awarded him first place. Kahn gained 171 points from 16 first-place votes, while Zidane got 148 points with 18 coaches voting him first.

There were four Real Madrid players in the top 10 with Roberto Carlos (fourth, 114 points) and Raul (sixth, 90 points) joining Ronaldo and Zidane.

Michael Ballack, who was suspended for the World Cup final, joined his compatriot Kahn in the top 10 as he finished seventh with 82 points.

Three players from the English Premier League were also in the top 10 — last year’s runner-up David Beckham (eighth 51 points), France striker Thierry Henry (ninth, 38 points) and 2001 European Player of the Year Michael Owen (10th, 34 points).

Last year’s winner Luis Figo, another player who wears the Real Madrid colours, was 13th with 10 points. Mia Hamm of the United States retained the crown she won last year by winning the women’s vote.

Triumphant comeback

Tuesday’s announcement crowns a year of personal and national team success for Ronaldo after a triumphant comeback from four seasons blighted by injury.

The gap-toothed “Phenomenon” re-established himself as one of the most effective strikers in the world by leading Brazil to their fifth World Cup triumph. His eight goals were the highest total since West Germany’s Gerd Mueller scored 10 in 1970.

That triumph was followed by a controversial 47 million euros ($48.50 million) transfer to Real Madrid from Inter Milan, the club that had given him so much support and uncomplainingly paid his wages throughout his injury problems.

After a few weeks spent losing weight and regaining fitness, Ronaldo proved his World Cup exploits had been no fluke with a spectacular Real Madrid debut.

A minute after coming on against Alaves he controlled a high ball on his chest and swept it in, and within 15 minutes he had added a second.

In December, he returned to Yokohama to score the opening goal in Real’s World Club Cup victory over Paraguay’s Olimpia, his first title with his new club.

Due to injury, he has played just 17 club games this year compared with 13 for Brazil and has scored more goals — 11 — for his country than his clubs.

Ronaldo has won a total of five awards this month. His Fifa award for being the world’s best player comes the day after France Football handed him the Golden Ball prize for the European Player of the Year for the second time.

He was also voted the BBC’s Overseas Sports Personality of the Year and won Player of the Year awards from French football magazine Onze and World Soccer magazine.

It is the fourth time in the past six years that the same player has won the European and world awards, including Ronaldo himself in 1997.

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