KEIR RADNEDGE in MONTE CARLO: Franck Ribery was voted Europe’s Player of the Year at the climax of the UEFA Champions League draw here in Monaco.
Bayern Munich’s France forward had earned the prize after enjoying a triumphant treble-winning season in Champions League and German league and cup.
One runner-up present for the presentation by UEFA president Michel Platini was Barcelona and Argentina forward Leo Messi. The other runner-up, Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, resisted UEFA pressure to attend for what he expected, correctly, to be yet another wasted trip in pursuit of a lost trophy cause.
He is also about to lose out again: Ronaldo’s status as the world’s most expensive player is about to be assumed by his expected new Real Madrid team-mate Gareth Bale.
Asked about Ronaldo’s absence, UEFA president Michel Platini said later: ” He had to play a match in La Coruna. It’s as simple as that. Real Madrid had a commitment to play and Mr Ronaldo had a commitment to play as well since the stadium was sold out to capacity.
“Did he not attend because he knew he was not going to win? I am telling you what [president] Florentino Perez said about why he could not come. You can think what you like.”
Ribery collected 36 votes compared with 14 for Messi and three for Ronaldo.
His statistical achievements last season included 10 goals in 27 Bundesliga games, including doubles against Hoffenheim and Borussia Mönchengladbach as Bayern won the title by 25 points from Borussia Dortmund.
He scored only once in Bayern’s victorious Champions League campaign but had the satisfaction of creating the decisive goal for Arjen Robben in the final against Dortmund at Wembley.
Ribery said: “It was an extraordinary year for us. We’d wanted that trophy for so long and to play at Wembley was fantastic. I think Bayern deserved to win the cup after such a long time.”
As for the UEFA award, he added: “I want to thank all my team-mates and the directors at Bayern, and the supporters. We’ve had a fantastic year.”
Bayern president Uli Hoeness had been a strong advocate of Ribery’s claim to being UEFA’s choice, saying: “There was not a single reason not to give the trophy to Franck. He was the only legitimate winner.”