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Ronaldo named European Footballer of the Year

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  • Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo named European Football of the Year
  • Portuguese star tops annual poll from Lionel Messi and Fernando Torres
  • Ronaldo scored 42 goals as United won Premier League and Champions League
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(CNN) -- Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo was named European Footballer of the Year on Tuesday, reward for his brilliant performances for Manchester United as they completed the Premier League and Champions League double.

Ronaldo's goalscoring exploits helped United to the Premier League and Champions League.

Ronaldo is the fourth Manchester United player to win the Ballon d'Or (Golden Ball) and the first since fellow winger George Best in 1968.

He beat Barcelona forward Lionel Messi into second place, with Liverpool striker Fernando Torres third in the poll, which is organized by France Football magazine.

"It's one of the greatest days of my life. Winning this trophy ... I dreamed about it as a kid," France Football quoted Ronaldo as saying.

"Those who know me, who live with me, know that this is finally a dream come true for me."

Ronaldo comfortably topped the poll of 96 leading sports journalists with 446 points.

• See Ronaldo's career in photos

Messi had 281 points and Torres was on 179.

"I'm only 23 and it's magnificent. Unbelievable. It's even better considering all the big names in contention this year," Ronaldo added.

Ronaldo heaped praise on the teammates who helped him score 42 goals in all competitions last season, a remarkable total for a wide player.

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"They are the ones who passed the ball for me to score goals," he said. "What is for sure is that I want to win it again, it feels so good. So, (next morning), at eight O'clock, I will wake up and tell myself I want to be even better."

United manager Alex Ferguson also paid tribute to Ronaldo's goalscoring abilities.

"Forty-two goals for a winger is quite unbelievable," he told Associated Press.

"The thing about Ronaldo is that he wants to play with skill and he wants to use the skill all the time, which is great credit to him. Of course the goals really put the icing on the cake for him."

Last year's winner Kaka, Milan's Brazilian playmaker, finished eighth this time around with only 31 points.

The 23-year-old Ronaldo adds the Ballon d'Or award to the FIFPro World Player of the Year trophy he won in October, and the Professional Footballers Association and the Football Writers awards.

He also becomes the first Premier League player to win since former Liverpool forward Michael Owen in 2001, and the first Portuguese player since winger Luis Figo won it with Real Madrid in 2000, and the third after Eusebio in 1965.

The only disappointment for Ronaldo in an outstanding year was Portugal's below-par showing at the Euro 2008, after which he underwent an operation on a nagging right ankle injury.

After a summer of speculation linking him to Real Madrid, Ronaldo returned to United colors in mid-September and is slowly finding his best form with eight goals in 11 Premier League games.

Closest rival Messi has scored freely for Barca all year and also helped Argentina defeat Nigeria 1-0 to win the Olympic football gold medal in Beijing.

Torres made an immediate impression with Liverpool in the Premier League and scored the only goal as Spain beat Germany to win Euro 2008.

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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