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Cannavaro named FIFA's top player

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ZURICH, Switzerland -- Italy's World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro added another trophy to his haul on Monday when he was named 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year.

The 33-year-old Real Madrid defender beat off competition from Barcelona's Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho and retired former France skipper Zinedine Zidane in a vote by national team coaches and captains.

Cannavaro, the first defender to win the trophy in its 16-year history, adds the honor to the prestigious European Footballer of the Year award he received from France Football magazine last month.

He also ends Ronaldinho's two-year reign as World Player of the Year. Zidane, who quit after the World Cup, previously won the FIFA award in 1998, 2000 and 2003.

Only three defensive players have won the European award, Soviet Union goalkeeper Lev Yashin in 1963, West Germany sweeper Franz Beckenbauer (1972, 1976) and Germany libero Matthias Sammer (1996).

"The competition was scary, it was so strong," Cannavaro said at the awards ceremony inside Zurich's opera house.

"After winning the World Cup and the European Footballer of the Year award too, I do not think I can ask for anything else.

"It is not usual for a defender to be sitting alongside Ronaldinho and Zinedine Zidane, who get to do marvellous things all season, so I saw it as a victory just to be here."

Cannavaro paid tribute to Zidane, his predecessor in the number five shirt at Real and a controversial choice on the award shortlist following his red card in the World Cup final in Berlin.

"When I first came to Real everybody asked me what it meant to be wearing the same shirt," said the Italian. "I can only say now what I said then, it is an honor to wear the same number as such a great player."

Like Zidane, Cannavaro has been involved in a fair share of controversy this year, not least when he helped Juventus win a second successive Serie A title only for the club to be stripped of the crown and relegated following a probe into alleged match-fixing.

Italy's World Cup success was achieved against the backdrop of that investigation and Cannavaro went into the tournament facing criticism after he defended former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi, who was at the center of the allegations.

There was also criticism of his short-listing for the European and World Player awards, with several leading managers and players arguing his nominations owed more to Italy's resolute defending in one month in Germany than to his achievements for club and country over the course of the year.

Despite failing to win a third consecutive World Player award and having to battle jet-lag after flying from Barcelona's Club World Cup final defeat in Japan, Ronaldinho was wearing his trademark grin.

"It is a privilege to be sitting here next to Cannavaro," said Ronaldinho.

"I already feel like a winner because the nomination is a reward for my career so far. Now I just want to help my team and do so in such a way that I can make it to Zurich every year."


Cannavaro's magical year began when he led Italy to World Cup final glory in Germany.

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