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Ronaldo eyes further glory at FIFA awards

MANCHESTER United's Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo is widely expected to add to his impressive haul of titles on Monday when he takes on four other nominees vying for the 2008 FIFA World Player award.

Spanish Euro 2008 winners Xavi Hernandez and Fernando Torres are also strong contenders, however, with the national team coaches and captains who vote on the award having sometimes favoured international achievements over those at club level.

Barcelona winger Lionel Messi, an Olympic gold medallist with Argentina at the 2008 Beijing Games and last year's award winner, Brazilian midfielder Kaka, complete the top five.

Kaka's inclusion this time around has raised more than a few eyebrows after what was a relatively disappointing year blighted by injuries for the AC Milan playmaker.

The Brazilian already appears to have discounted his chances this year -- along with those of Messi, Xavi and Torres -- by saying that Ronaldo was the right man to pick up December's virtually identical Ballon d'Or award.

That award, voted upon by football journalists, concentrates on the best European-based players but since FIFA has invariably chosen to shortlist players from European clubs for their own version the two titles have become hard to distinguish.

Indeed, for the past three years the Ballon d'Or winner has also gone on to pick up the FIFA version.

Ronaldo's individual skills and extraordinary goal-rate combined with his club's achievements in 2008, certainly make it hard to imagine that trend being bucked on Monday.

The Madeira-born player fired in an amazing tally of 42 goals last season as the English club celebrated the Premier League and Champions League double.

He ended 2008 on a further high, helping United win FIFA's Club World Cup though that competition came too late to influence the voting for Monday's award, which was completed in mid-December.


Portugal's quarter-final exit from Euro 2008 was Ronaldo's only major low of the year and could offer hope to Xavi and Torres although the European Championship has in the past had a much lesser influence on the award than FIFA's own World Cup.

Since 1991 when the World Player award began, World Cup winners have always lifted the trophy in World Cup years.

When it comes to European Championships though, three-time World Player Zinedine Zidane is so far the only man to have won both in the same year.

No members of the victorious Danish, German or Greek sides at the 1992, 1996 and 2004 European Championship managed to even make the final shortlist.

As the scorer of Spain's winning goal over Germany in the Euro 2008 final and as a driving force in Liverpool's surge to the top of the current Premiership standings, Torres will not be worrying too much about that however.

Xavi played an arguably even bigger role in Spain's success, being named man of the tournament by UEFA.

Like his Barcelona team-mate Messi, Xavi can also point to some impressive club performances as the Catalan club ran rampage through the first half of the domestic and Champions Leagues.

Regardless of the individual players' merits, a significant power shift will surely be spoken of if either Ronaldo or Torres pick up the trophy on Monday.

To date all of the FIFA World Player winners have won the award while playing for clubs in Spain or Italy.

Victory for either the Manchester United or Liverpool player is certain to be viewed by some in La Liga and Serie A as further proof of the Premier League's growing sway over the game.


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