Wed, Dec 24, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Pavel Nedved gets Golden Ball award

FOOTBALL AWARDS The 31-year-old native of the Czech Republic helped Juventus to the Serie A championship this year along with a Champions League runner-up spot


Czech midfielder Pavel Nedved of Juventus won the Golden Ball as the European Footballer of the Year in a poll of European soccer journalists from 52 countries published by `France Football' magazine, the Italian club's official Web site said Monday. Nedved is seen celebrating scoring against Parma during their Serie A soccer match in Turin on Dec. 14.


Pavel Nedved, star midfielder for Juventus and the Czech Republic, won the Golden Ball award as Europe's best soccer player, edging out France's Thierry Henry and Italian veteran Paolo Maldini.

"I didn't even dream of this," Nedved told Canal Plus television, which showed him cradling the prestigious trophy. "I am very happy to win such an extraordinary prize."

Nedved, a first-time winner, finished with 190 points, ahead of Arsenal striker Henry on 128 and AC Milan defender Maldini on 123. The winner is picked by an annual survey of 52 European journalists conducted by France Football magazine.

"I heard I was part of the nominees, but I didn't really think I was going to win," Nedved said. "There are many players who have had great seasons, like Zinedine Zidane, Paolo Maldini and Raul."

Nedved, 31, helped his Italian team to the Serie A championship this year and a Champions League runner-up spot.

His Champions League semifinal performance was key in Juventus' defeat of powerhouse Real Madrid. But he missed the final against AC Milan, which Juventus lost on penalties, because of suspension.

"He's a very creative, talented player and deserves his award," Juventus coach Marcello Lippi told Canal Plus.

Nedved, a rugged and talented playmaker, also captained the Czech team that won its Euro 2004 qualifying group ahead of the Netherlands.

Real Madrid striker Ronaldo won last year's Golden Ball after leading Brazil to the World Cup title. This year he placed 11th with 11 points.

Nedved is the second Czech winner after Josef Masopust in 1962 and the sixth Juventus winner -- following Michel Platini, Paolo Rossi, Roberto Baggio, Zidane and Omar Sivori.

Nedved was also named Czech athlete of 2003 by sports journalists in his home country and was British magazine World Soccer's Player of the Year.

Nedved has scored 24 goals in 99 league and European games since joining Juventus, one of Italy's most successful clubs, two years ago from Lazio of Rome.

He totals 17 goals in 72 international appearances.

The Golden Ball, Nedved's first major individual award, joined a host of silverware he already gained with Juventus, Lazio and Sparta Prague.

With Lazio, Nedved won the league title in 2000, the Cup Winners Cup in 1999, the Italian Cup in 1998 and 2000, and the Italian Super Cup in 1998.

Nedved -- a skillful player capable of scoring brilliant individual goals -- has helped Juventus win the league title twice (2002/2003) and the Super Cup (2002/2003).

He also won the Czechoslovak league title in 1993 with Sparta Prague, and was Czech Republic league champion the next two years, also with Sparta.

Meanwhile, Henry was second again: He finished runner-up last week to Zidane in FIFA's World Player of the Year award.

Henry has been sensational for Arsenal and France, scoring 10 league and three Champions League goals this season for the Gunners. They are second in the English Premier League, one point behind leader Manchester United.

He notched 24 league goals for the Gunners last season, added another seven in the Champions League and scored 10 times in 13 appearances for Les Bleus, including the winner last June in the Confederations Cup final against Cameroon.

Veteran Maldini captained AC Milan to Champions League victory this year. The 35-year-old has played for Milan since 1984, clocking a mammoth 514 league appearances. He retired from the Italian national side after the 2002 World Cup, with 126 caps.

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