The 50: Cristiano Ronaldo (1)

The 50 comes to a close with the inevitable announcement that Manchester United's superstar Cristiano Ronaldo heads the list of the greatest players of 2008...
50 - Ashley Young - Aston Villa, Premier League - Score: 1109
49 - Javier Zanetti - Internazionale, Serie A - Score: 1104
48 - Daniel Guiza - Fenerbahçe, Super Lig - Score: 1089
47 - Juninho Pernambucano - Olympique Lyonnais, Ligue 1 - Score: 1083
46 - Juan Román Riquelme - Boca Juniors, Argentine Apertura - Score: 1077
45 - Luca Toni - FC Bayern, Bundesliga - Score: 1064
44 - David Silva - Valencia, Primera Division - Score: 1060
42 (T) - Thierry Henry - Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 1040
42 (T) - Daniel Alves - Sevilla, Primera Division / Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 1040
41 - Antonio Cassano - Sampdoria, Serie A - Score: 1028
40 - Klaas-Jan Huntelaar - Ajax Amsterdam, Eredivisie / Real Madrid, Primera Division - Score: 1027
39 - Ricardo Carvalho - Chelsea, Premier Division - Score: 1025
38 - Samuel Eto'o - Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 1017
37 - Philipp Lahm - FC Bayern, Bundesliga - Score: 1009
36 - Javier Mascherano - Liverpool, Premier League - Score: 1008
35 - Julio Cesar - Internazionale, Serie A - Score 1000
34 - Robinho - Real Madrid, Primera Division / Manchester City, Premier League - Score: 970
33 - Diego - Werder Bremen, Bundesliga - Score: 955
32 - Carles Puyol - FC Barcelona, La Primera División - Score: 915
31 - Wesley Sneijder - Real Madrid, Primera Division - Score: 887
30 - Daniele De Rossi - Roma, Serie A - Score: 878
29 - Esteban Cambiasso - Internazionale, Serie A - Score: 877
28 - Giorgio Chiellini - Juventus, Serie A - Score: 870
27 - Emmanuel Adebayor – Arsenal, Premier League - Score: 862
26 - Nemanja Vidic - Manchester United, Premier League - Score: 829
25 - Ruud Van Nistelrooy - Real Madrid, Primera Division- Score: 827
24 - Sergio Ramos - Real Madrid, Primera Division - Score: 733
23 - Maicon Douglas Sisenando - Internazionale, Serie A - Score: 729
22 - Alessandro Del Piero - Juventus, Serie A - Score: 712
21 - John Terry - Chelsea, Premier League - Score: 705
20 - Frank Lampard - Chelsea, Premier League - Score: 668

19 - Marcos Senna - Villarreal, Primera Division - Score: 636
18 - Rio Ferdinand - Manchester United, Premier League - Score: 610
17 - Gianluigi Buffon - Juventus, Serie A - Score: 589
16 - Kaka - AC Milan, Serie A - Score: 587
15 - Wayne Rooney - Manchester United, Premier League - Score: 586
14 - Karim Benzema - Olympique Lyonnais, Ligue 1 - Score: 559
13 - Andres Iniesta - FC Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 538
12 - Steven Gerrard - Liverpool, Premier League - Score: 537
11 - Franck Ribery - FC Bayern - Bundesliga - Score: 521
10 - Sergio Agüero – Atlético Madrid, La Liga – Score: 510
9 - Andrei Arshavin - Zenit St Petersburg, Russian Premier League - Score 469
8 - Francesc Fabregas - Arsenal, Premier League - Score: 444
7 - David Villa - Valencia, La Liga - Score: 356
6 - Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Inter, Serie A - Score: 279
5 - Xavi Hernández - FC Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 222
4 - Iker Casillas - Real Madrid, Primera Division - Score: 219
3 - Fernando Torres - Liverpool, Premier League - Score: 100
2 - Lionel Messi - Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 98

1 - Cristiano Ronaldo - Premier Division, Premier Division - Score 32

Yes, it was about as inevitable as death and taxes, but it was also deserved. Cristiano Ronaldo is’s Greatest Player of 2008, and with good reason.

Whilst providing controversy, his club form – for the majority of the year – was unparalleled. Love him, loathe him, or stalk him silently from afar, it is hard to deny his undoubted talent but, and this is a crucial but, considering this is an award for 2008 as a whole and not the 2007-08 season, is it possible (after the end of this sentence) to go a whole feature article without mentioning the all too oft stated phrase: "42 goal season?"

Beginning The Year In Fine Form

Asking a pool of ten people what they think Ronaldo's greatest strength is and you will likely receive ten different responses. His title of step-over king may be muttered; so too will his ability to not only beat, but fool the opposition could also be cited. His knack for dribbling with the ball at feet at pace is an obvious asset. His pinpoint crossing? Check. His eye for goal? Of course. His aptitude in the pass and to play for the assist? That too. The near priceless ability to change a game in a blink, and before you know it an experienced stopper has been hoodwinked? Oh yes. That's not to mention his domination in the header, his acceleration off the ball, and of course, his capacity for striking a dead ball.

It is the latter quality that leads us to his first goals of 2008. On January 12 2008 Manchester United returned to the field at Old Trafford after a goalless first half against visiting Newcastle United. Ronaldo, four minutes into the second half, struck a daisy-cutting free kick below the wall and into the net to inspire the beginning of a six-nil rout. He struck his second 20 minutes later, and added a third before the 90 by rounding off a good four-man move. It was his first hat-trick in United's iconic red strip.

Arguably one of his most replayed goals of the season arrived later in the month during the club's clash with Portsmouth. Ronaldo struck a dead ball from 30 yards with thigh-slapping power and eye-rubbing pace that upped a wall and bulged into the net while a hapless and helpless David James looked on in disbelief. It was a forerunner for Goal of the Season, and narrowly missed out on the accolade to Togolese target man Emmanuel Adebayor's control and volley in the north London derby.

Goals, Goals, Goals

Manchester United kept pace with Arsenal in what was proving to be a three-horse race for the Premier League crown as Chelsea continued to flirt with the challenge. Ronaldo's goals were an obviously crucial factor in helping the club eventually overtake the Gunners and maintain the loftiest of league positions as they eventually lifted the crown in May.

When Arsenal slipped up at Birmingham City and embarked on a run of draws and dropping points, there was a window for United and the Red machine continued to kick forth.

Ronaldo scored the club's only goal in a hard-fought victory over lowly Derby County. He tested Roy Carroll on numerous occasions and his efforts eventually bore fruit in the second half.

Critics may point to Ronaldo shirking from the big stage, but when United faced Liverpool it was he who doubled the club's advantage by heading in from a Nani cross, after Wes Brown broke the deadlock. He inspired the win and those three points took the club six clear at the top. When United faced Arsenal it was Ronaldo who coolly tucked away a penalty. Two of the biggest domestic games of the season, and Ronaldo's name was at the forefront.

When United played Villa they scored four, with Cristiano playing a part in all of the goals scored which was testament to both his goalscoring ability (an audacious backheel), and his eye for the aforementioned assist (providing three).

In order to secure top spot for the second time running, United needed to win their final two games (or at least better Chelsea's results), whose was the first name on the scoresheet on both matches? Yup Ronaldo's; he got three in the final two, and with his goal in the Champions League final, he amassed a total for the season that took him to four shy of Denis Law's club record of 46.

The first step in 2008 in Europe was the knock-out rounds, but C-Ron had already bagged five goals in the group stages. His home strike in the second leg of the Lyon bout sealed the coffin of the Ligue 1 heavyweights as it took United to 2-1 on aggregate.

He then struck in Roma's Stadio Olimpico, before drawing a blank in the semis against Barcelona, but was on hand to open the scoreline in the all-English final against Chelsea.

The Story This Year

Despite nursing his way back to full fitness following an ankle injury that was initially expected to keep the Portuguese international sidelined for three months, he returned in late September, and scored ten goals in the space of 23 games meaning that even though he is yet to hit top form, he is still one of the most efficient attackers in European football.

The goalkeepers of Gamba Osaka; Stoke City; Hull City; West Ham United; West Brom; Bolton; and Middlesbrough, have all had to pick the ball out of their own net at least once, after the last thing they saw was Ronaldo lining up for a strike on target.

Throughout the whole of 2008 he scored 33 goals in all competitions.

So there you have it.'s greatest player of 2008. Nike perhaps tagged him best with their current advertising campaign: Your love makes him strong, your hate makes him unstoppable.

Do you agree with the accolades? Or, to paraphrase a political and immortal 80s hip-hop group, do you not believe the hype? Let us know...

Team Prizes:
Premier League - 2007-08
Champions League - 2007-08
FIFA Club World Cup - 2008

Individual Accolades
FIFA World Player of the Year - 2008
Ballon d'Or - 2008
FIFPro World Player of the Year - 2008
Uefa Club Forward of the Year - 2008
Uefa Club Footballer of the Year - 2008
PFA Players' Player of the Year - 2008
PFA Fans' Player of the Year - 2008
PFA Premier League Team of the Year - 2008
Barclays' Premier League Player of the Year - 2008
FWA Footballer of the Year - 2008
Barclays' Player of the Month - January 2008
Barclays' Player of the Month - March 2008
Barclays' Merit Award - 2008
Barclays' Golden Boot - 2008
European Golden Shoe - 2008

And, arguably the finest accolade of them all:'s Greatest Player of 2008!

Alan Dawson,