MONTEVIDEO: Brazil striker Neymar, South American club champion and world club runner-up in 2011 with Santos, has been voted South American Footballer of the Year in the annual poll organized by Uruguayan newspaper El Pais of Montevideo writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Uruguay’s own Oscar Washington Tabarez was voted Coach of the Year for the second time in a row after steering his World Cup semi-finalists to a record 15th Copa America last July.
Neymar, who inspired Santos to victory over Penarol of Uruguay in the Copa Libertadores final in June, was a runaway winner with 130 votes, some 60 ahead of Chilean runner-up Eduardo Vargas. The 19-year-old thus set a record winning margin, better than the 109 votes gained by Argentinian veteran Juan Sebastian Veron in 2009.
Santos have denied recent reports in Spain that Neymar has agreed to transfer to Barcelona anytime between now and the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
Vargas, now with Napoli, led Universidad de Chile to victory in the Copa Sudamericana and domestic league championship. Neymar’s Santos team-mate Paulo Henrique Ganso was third,
Universidad de Chile’s Argentine trainer Jorge Sampaoli was voted coaching runner-up in the poll conducted among 247 journalists from 19 countries in Latin America. Players must have been playing in South American during the year in question to be eligible – hence the likes of Barcelona’s Argentinian superstar Leo Messi are not considered.
Messi was, however, voted by El Pais as the Europe Footballer of the Year for the third time, equalling the award achievement of Brazilian veteran Ronaldinho. Runner-up was Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo with Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta third.
The Team of the Year was: Johnny Herrera (Chile) – Néicer Reasco (Ecuador), Marcos González (Chile), Rolando Schiavi (Arg), Clemente Rodríguez (Arg) – Paulo Henrique Ganso (Brazil), Egidio Arévalo Ríos (Mexico), Juan Roman Riquelme (Arg) – Neymar (Brazil), Hernán Barcos (Argentina), Eduardo Vargas (Chile).