Zinedine Zidane, the 1998 FIFA World Player of the Year, picked up the 2000 award in Rome last night. The world's most expensive player, Real Madrid's £37million Portuguese ace Luis Figo, and the 1999 winner Rivaldo, Barcelona's brilliant Brazilian, had to settle for the minor places. Meanwhile Pele has been named as the Footballer of the Century, while Real Madrid have been named as Team of the Century with Holland, and surprisingly not France, being announced as Team of the Year.
French success on the international stage gave Zidane the necessary edge to become only the second two-time winner - after Brazil's Ronaldo in 1996 and 1997 - of the FIFA award. Disappointment in Madrid at Figo's failure to take the individual award will have been tempered by Real Madrid's election as FIFA Team of the Century; one of four special awards to mark the end of the first complete century of worldwide organised football competition.
While Brazil's international side, with their record four World Cup triumphs, might consider themselves overlooked, there was really only one contender on the club scene anywhere in the world. From Di Stefano to Figo, Real Madrid have arguably been the most consistently high-profile club side on the planet.
The Spanish capital's number one club have won a remarkable eight European Cups, including the first five after the competition began in 1956 and, just as an end-of-century reminder, two of the last three.
Add to that 27 Primera Liga titles, 17 Copa del Rey crowns, the UEFA Cup in 1985 and 1986 and two World Club Cups and you have a 98-year-old club with a CV to die for. If the giants of the Bernabeu have been the biggest name in club football from the last 100 years Pele is no less deserving of one of FIFA's two Footballer of the Century awards. The Brazilian striker, who graced the international stage across three decades and won a World Cup with Brazil in each of them - in 1958, 1962 and 1970 - looked set to be squeezed out as Footballer of the Century by Argentinian Diego Maradona.
But fans of the disgraced cocaine addict launched a cyber attack via the voting system on FIFA's website, and FIFA president Sepp Blatter was forced to step in and decree that two awards should be made. Pele, who still travels the world as an ambassador for his country and for the sport he loves, received one tonight from FIFA's grand jury. Maradona, who spends much of his time in Cuba trying to cure his drug addiction, received a FIFA Internet version.
The United States' Michelle Akers picked up the Woman Footballer of the Year award. Other awards at tonight's gala ceremony in Rome went to Holland as Team of the Year and Nigeria as Best Mover of the Year, while Leeds United's South African defender Lucas Radebe took the Fair Play award.
In the seven matches that count most on the FIFA World Rankings, Holland gained the highest point average - despite losing in the semi-finals on home turf as France clinched Euro 2000 success. Nigeria ended a disastrous 1999 in 82nd place in the FIFA rankings, after reaching the heady heights of seventh after winning the African Nations Cup in 1994. But in 2000 the Super Eagles have clambered their way back to 30th – the biggest movers on the chart.
Radebe, meanwhile, picked up the Fair Play award for his strenuous efforts to combat racism in football and the community, as well as working with children in Soweto in his home country.
Filed by Sinéad Gleeson