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Ukrainian Andriy Shevchenko wins Golden Ball

Last Updated: Monday, December 13, 2004 | 11:42 PM ET

AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko was named the Ballon d'Or (Golden Ball) award winner on Monday as European soccer player of the year.

The Ukrainian edged out FC Barcelona's Portuguese midfield star Deco and club teammate Ronaldinho. Czech Republic midfielder Pavel Nedved, who plays with Italian giants Juventus, won last year's award.

The annual honour, first handed out in 1956, is awarded by the influential France Football magazine and is considered one of the most prestigious honours in soccer. The award is voted by journalists from 52 European countries.

Andriy Shevchenko receives the 2004 Golden Ball Award on Monday. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
Andriy Shevchenko receives the 2004 Golden Ball Award on Monday. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

Shevchenko chalked up 175 points, Deco received 139 points and Ronaldinho 133. Arsenal forward Thierry Henry of France picked up 80 points for fourth place. Greece's Theodoros Zagorakis, who captained the Greeks to their miraculous win at Euro 2004, finished fifth with 44 points

The prolific 28-year-old Shevchenko has had an amazing 12 months, leading AC Milan to Serie A (Italian first division) title and finishing as the league's top scorer in 2004-04 with 24 goals.

Shevchenko joined the Italian club in 1999 from Dynamo Kiev and has become one of the most dangerous goal-scorers in the game, scoring 136 goals overall – 102 in 163 Serie A games and 20 in 49 European matches.

He also helped Milan win the Champions League title (European club championship) in 2003.

He currently sits second in the scoring race with 11 goals (three off the pace of front-runner Adriano of Inter Milan), while AC Milan sits four points behind league-leaders Juventus in the standings.

Shevchenko is also on the short list, along with Ronaldinho and Henry, for FIFA's world player award.

Shevchenko is the first Ukrainian to win the award since the country gained independence in 1991. During the Soviet era Oleg Blokhin (in 1975) and Igor Belanov (in 1986) won the award as Europe's best player.

Englishman Stanley Matthews won the first award in 1956. Other winners include such legends as Alfredo Di Stefano, Eusebio, Johann Cruyff, Michel Platini, Zinedine Zidane and Michael Owen.

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