Ronaldo lands football's prestigious Ballon d'Or
Manchester United and Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo is celebrating ''one of the most beautiful days of my life'' after being award the prestigious Ballon d'Or on Tuesday.
In the early hours Ronaldo, who inspired United to the Champions League and Premier League double this year, was named as the successor to 2007's winner, Kaka, after convincingly seeing off competition from Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Liverpool striker Fernando Torres.
Of the 96 top journalists polled by France Football magazine, 77 voted Ronaldo as their number one player this year and every one placed him in their top five after he scored 42 goals in United's trophy-laden season.
He polled an impressive 446 points from a maximum 480, finishing comfortably ahead of second-placed Messi (281) and third-placed Torres (179).
In so doing the 23-year-old becomes the third Portuguese player to lift the famous trophy - after legendary pair Eusebio and Luis Figo - and the first Premier League player since Michael Owen in 2001 to land the award.
Ronaldo also becomes the fourth Red Devil to take the gong after Denis Law (1964), Bobby Charlton (1966) and George Best (1968).
A total of 11 Premier League players earned votes, with England internationals Steven Gerrard (ninth), Wayne Rooney (13th) and Frank Lampard (15th) flying the flag for Fabio Capello's side.
Speaking to the France Football website, Ronaldo said: ''It is one of the most beautiful days of my life. To gain this trophy is something I dreamed of as a child.
''Great emotion fills me but I cannot really describe it. I want to thank those who voted for me, those who know me and those who live with me. I was not worried, because I was aware of what I did in the course of the season.
''But to the people who mentioned my name, I say thank you. Thank you also to my team-mates. This (trophy) is one that I want to win again because it is so good. Therefore, I will wake and I will say to myself 'I want to be even better'.''
Ronaldo admitted he was proud to be taking the honour ahead of a host of world stars.
''I am only 23 years old and it is splendid, incredible,'' he continued. ''There were other great names this year. I see that Lionel Messi finished second and Fernando Torres third, but also (fifth-placed) Xavi ... all these people could have taken the trophy and I won it.''
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson told France Footbal: ''We are very proud. Manchester United had been waiting for this for 40 years. Cristiano is in the tradition of our three other Ballons d'Or. His award is beyond all possible dispute,''
''He is only 23 years old. His best years are ahead of him. In life, you have two categories of people. Those who reach their goal and go to bed saying to themselves 'I made it' and the other ones, who are driven by will, desire.
''These ones, when they win the trophy, they say to themselves 'I go on'... Ronaldo has that sparkle in himself.''
He is already FIFPro World Player of the Year and also took the top domestic prizes from the Professional Footballers' Association and the Football Writers last season.
However, despite an impressive domestic campaign with United it has not all been smooth sailing for Ronaldo.
His summer efforts at Euro 2008 were less spectacular - he found the net just once before Portugal were eliminated at the quarter-final stage - and his pre-season was dominated by speculation about a move to Real Madrid and then an ankle injury prevented the winger from reprise his scoring form at the start of the term.
After returning to fitness Ronaldo bounced back and has scored eight goals in 11 league games so far this season with United.