By Keir Radnedge
Cristiano Ronaldo has completed a one-year media trip from villain to hero with his election as Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association.
Last June, the Manchester United winger was almost every paper’s favourite scapegoat for his wink to the Portuguese bench after the expulsion of Wayne Rooney in England’s World Cup quarter-final defeat in Gelsenkirchen. Speculation ran throughout the summer that he might be too intimidated to face the wrath of Premiership crowds.
Ronaldo’s increasingly decisive influence in the title duel with Chelsea was reflected in the way in which he overhauled the champions’ Didier Drogba in pursuit of individual acclaim. Earlier this month, Ronaldo was also voted into top spot in the players’ own poll.
Paul Hetherington, chairman of the FWA, said: “Cristiano was a runaway winner, and deservedly so. After the events of last summer at the World Cup, this FWA vote shows that all we are interested in is honouring the best player in the country. There has been no agenda carried over from last summer.”
Ronaldo’s United team-mates Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes were third and fourth respectively, further underlining United’s revival which brought them to the Champions League semi-finals and into the FA Cup Final.
The first FWA Footballer of the Year was awarded at the end of the 1947-1948 season to Stanley Matthews.
Today, Ronaldo said, “I’m thrilled and delighted to have won such a great award.”
The dinner, where Ronaldo will be presented with his trophy, is on May 17 at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London, in front of a sell out 700 audience.