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By ESPN Staff

Cannavaro voted European Footballer of the Year

PARIS, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro was named European Footballer of the Year on Monday, beating international team mate Gianluigi Buffon and France and Arsenal striker Thierry Henry into second and third.

Cannavaro paid tribute not only to his national team but also to troubled Juventus.

'Of course I will bring this trophy back to Madrid but I would also love to bring it to Turin,' Cannavaro, who joined Real Madrid from Juventus in July, told a news conference.

'My season at Juventus was just outstanding. I played 37 matches and scored four goals, all decisive.'

The 33-year-old defender, who proudly captained Italy in their triumphant World Cup campaign, won the vote by 52 journalists organised by France Football magazine.

'It is late recognition for our World Cup victory,' said Cannavaro, the first Italian player since Roberto Baggio in 1993 to win the award.

Juventus were stripped of their last two Italian titles and relegated to Serie B after being implicated in a match-fixing scandal.

Following the scandal, the Azzurri were crowned world champions with Cannavaro marshalling a defence that conceded only two goals en route to victory on penalties over France in the final.

Cannavaro became the third defender to win the award after Germans Franz Beckenbauer (1972, 1976) and Matthias Sammer in 1996.

The centre back, who succeeds Brazil and Barcelona's Ronaldinho as award winner, had 173 points. Italy goalkeeper Buffon came second on 124 with Henry third on 121.

Cannavaro said the collective performances of Juventus and Italy had played a key role in his success.

'It is thanks to them that I have been able to show my qualities on the pitch. So I want to thank my Juve team mates and all my colleagues from the Nazionale,' he said.

Cannavaro, the sixth Real Madrid player to win the award, also had thoughts for Naples, the city were he was born and raised.

'I would like to show the trophy to Naples as it is a very special city, where I grew up. I used to play football in the streets of Naples,' he said.

'I would love to show it to the kids who are in difficulty over there.'

However, Cannavaro added that he was still far behind Argentine Diego Maradona in the Neapolitans' hearts.

'Diego is someone very special in Naples. If I am proud for Naples to win this award, I cannot say I am even close of Maradona in this city,' he said.

Cannavaro started his club career at Napoli, playing for them from 1991 to 1995. His brother Pablo is a centre back in the team which leads the Serie B standings.