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 Monday, December 16, 2002 18:24 EST

Striker wins award for second time in career


PARIS -- Brazilian striker Ronaldo has been named European Footballer of the Year for the second time, organizers France Football magazine said on Monday.

The Real Madrid forward, who scored twice in Brazil's 2-0 World Cup final victory over Germany and finished as the tournament's leading scorer, becomes one of only eight players to win the prestigious award for a second time.

Ronaldo scored Real's first goal in its 2-0 World Club Cup win over Paraguay's Olimpia two weeks ago, and is in the running to become FIFA World Player of the Year for the third time later this week.

He finished ahead of wing back Roberto Carlos, also of Real Madrid and Brazil, goalkeeper Oliver Kahn (Bayern Munich and Germany), and midfielders Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid and France) and Michael Ballack (Bayern and Germany).

The 26-year-old Rio-born striker, who also won the Golden Ball award in 1997, follows Spain's Alfredo Di Stefano, Germans Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, and England's Kevin Keegan as twice-winners.

French playmaker Michel Platini and Dutch strikers Marco van Basten and Johan Cruyff won the award three times.

Despite struggling with knee injuries that kept him out for much of last season, Ronaldo triumphantly returned in 2002 to fulfil his promise as one of Brazil's finest players since Pele.

He pipped his strike partner Rivaldo to finish as the World Cup's leading scorer with eight goals.

His performance in the Yokohama final laid to rest questions about his appetite for the big occasion after he suffered a stress-related breakdown just before the 1998 final, which Brazil lost 3-0 to France.

After the World Cup Ronaldo completed a controversial transfer from Inter Milan to European champions Real for 47 million euros. He scored twice on his Real debut against Alaves.

A spokesman for France Football said the award was based on a European-based player's performance throughout the world.

Journalists from 52 UEFA-affiliated countries voted for the award, which was won last year by England and Liverpool striker Michael Owen.

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