Silky-smooth Barcelona striker Ronaldinho
is being tipped to win the 50th European footballer of the year award at
a ceremony here on Monday.
The Brazilian, whose mesmerising ball skills and two goals in a 3-0 win
over arch rivals Real Madrid two weeks ago left even the Santiago
Bernabeu fans in applause, would succeed Ukrainian striker Andriy
Shevchenko of AC Milan.
Also in with a chance of winning the award, given to a Europe-based
player deemed to have performed the best over the previous year, are
Chelsea forward Frank Lampard and Liverpool's Steven Gerrard.
Gerrard, Liverpool's main midfield workhorse and a capable goalscorer
for the Reds, inspired the Anfield Road club to victory throughout their
triumphant Champions League campaign last season when they ended up
beating AC Milan on spot kicks in the final.
However Liverpool's failure to shine in the English Premiership both
last season and currently may go against the England international.
Lampard, who seems to have blossomed under the guidance of Chelsea
manager Jose Mourinho, helped inspire the Stamford Bridge club to
victory in the Premiership last season, their first such title in over
It remains to be seen if their contribution to their clubs' respective
successes proves enough to convince the panel of judges, which is made
up of prominent European football journalists.
Also in with a shout of what is regarded as Europe's most prestigious
player award - won for the first time by Stanley Matthews of Blackpool
in 1956 - is Arsenal striker Thierry Henry, who has never won it,
Shevchenko, and Cameroonian Samuel Eto'o, also of Barcelona.
However Ronaldinho's special brand of football, which helped Barcelona
to the Spanish league title last season and Brazil to victory in the
Confederations Cup, has tipped the balance in his favour.
Ronaldinho has already been voted Fifa's World Player of the year, in
2004, and this year was given the FIFpro award.
If successful he would become the third Brazilian to win the 'Golden
Ball' trophy after compatriots Ronaldo (1997 when he played for Inter
Milan and in 2002 with Real Madrid) and Rivaldo (1999 when he played for
Three players share the record of having won the award three times.
Dutch striker Johan Cruyff won it while with Ajax in 1971, 1973 and
1974, Frenchman Michel Platini won it while with Juventus in 1983, 1984
and 1985 and Dutchman Marco Van Basten won it in 1988, 1989 and 1992
while playing for AC Milan.