Luis Figo named FIFA Player of the Year

Portugal's Luis Figo named the 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year following a vote by football officials worldwide.

updated: February 25, 2007 08:37 IST
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Luis Figo has been named FIFA World Player of the Year. The Real Madrid player becomes the first Portuguese player to receive the award. He edged out England captain David Beckham for the top spot while his team mate Raul was third. Figo was the runner-up to Frenchman Zenidine Zidane last year. The 29-year-old Portuguese international who was named European Player of the Year last December has proved beyond all doubt that he is one of the best mid-fielders in the history of the game. He would probably be best remembered for his spectacular goal against England in Euro 2000. Portugal, however, were knocked out in the semi-finals. "I played in a team which made it possible for me to be here," Figo told journalists shortly before he received the award from FIFA president Joseph Blatter at a ceremony in Zurich. "All the time I have never planned my sports career, in any case I never counted on a moment like this one. But with hard work everything is possible." Figo was edged out of the annual award last year by his now teammate and fellow midfielder at the Spanish league champions, Zinedine Zidane. "The question is how a team works, with a group of three or four best players alone you can't win," Figo said of Zidane, and Raul. "A team is a squad of about 20 players who each have a special and important role to play. Each player has an individual role on a team but you can't achieve this alone. We all play together, it's not one player who can make a difference." The Real Madrid mid-fielder beat fellow team mate Raul Gonzalez and England and Manchester United captain David Beckham to take the FIFA player of the year award. Figo has scored 13 goals this year for Madrid and five for Portugal in their world cup qualifying campaign. David Beckham who finished second has scored 8 goals for his club, and three for England. But the most prolific scorer amongst the top three was undoubtedly Raul. Michael Owen who missed out on this award was well compensated. He was named the European footballer of the year. He had a hat trick in England's 5-1 win over Germany and won five titles with Liverpool. Owen is the first English player to win the Golden Ball award since former England coach Kevin Keegan in 1979. And with Owen's England team mate David Beckham second in the FIFA player of the year poll, clearly it is England who seem to have the most talent for the 2002 World cup. And they will certainly need it given that they are in the group of death. (with PTI inputs)