Brazilian striker Ronaldo has dedicated his Ballon ‘ D’Or award to the surgeon who helped rehabilitate his knee after a series of career-threatening injuries.
Ronaldo finished ahead of compatriot and fellow Real Madrid player Roberto Carlos. German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn was third with former winner Zinedine Zidane fourth and Kahn’s team-mate Michael Ballack fifth.
“Professor Saillant instilled in me an extraordinary confidence,’ said Ronaldo, who adds the prestigious France Football award to the one voted by World Soccer readers.
‘Even when people were saying that my first operation was a mistake I always believed in him.
“He inspired me and helped me stay calm and optimistic, very strong things indeed.
“The feelings I am experiencing are far stronger than the first time,” he added.
“After two years of injury, without even knowing whether I would play football again, I overcame my problems thanks to my passion for football, and that is why this reward has a different meaning for me.”
Ronaldo also won the award in 1997 and becomes the first non-European player to do so twice.
The Brazilian is widely expectedto collect the FIFA World Player of the Year award, wich is presented in Madrid later today.