Date: 19th November 2007 at 3:01pm
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Kaka, Milan’s mercurial playmaker said that Cristiano Ronaldo was a better player than him.

Kaka will almost certainly win France Football’s European Footballer of the Year award but insists that the rightful receiver of this award would be our very own Cristiano Ronaldo.

‘He is the best, not only for his technical ability, but also for what he has done with Portugal,’ he told Italian reporters.

Well, of course he said that. He’s not Oliver Kahn or Roberto Carlos who demanded the award, saying they deserve it more than anyone else. Kaka is modest and therefore, out of courteousy, he named his biggest rival for the award as the most deserving candidate.

But I think, fortunately, that Ronaldo has no chance of it. The first and most obvious reason is that widespread rumours suggested that Kaka won and France Football have already invited him to the awards dinner.

The other reasons are more difficult. First, I think Kaka is a more complete player than our brilliant Portuguese. Remember, the Brazilian is three years older than Ronaldo and that’s a big time in football. Just think about Rooney’s performance against Milan in 2005 and 2007.

Kaka has already proved he can be decisive in the biggest games. His finest show came at our expense, I must admit: his goals at Old Trafford ensured he wasn’t going to be overtaken in the race for the Champions League’s top scorer award. Seeing that he’s not an out-and-out striker, the golden boot of the competition is a remarkable achievement in itself. Ronaldo, on the other hand, played well only against Roma in the Champions League. Domestic heroics aside, it is the exploits in the premier competition that truly catch the eye of the journalists from all over the world.

And this is another point. European journalists are always more likely to vote for the player of a continental team, especially if the player in question happens to be the one who single-handedly won the Champions League for his club. And please allow me to suggest, though I know you will point at our humiliating San Siro defeat, that he achieved it while playing in an inferior team to Ronaldo’s.

Yes, I think we were and still are a better team than Milan. The evidence of the two teams’ meeting speak against me but if you look at their performances over the whole season, you will see that United were much more consistent, dynamic, fluent while Milan were struggling all the way to the Champions League semi-finals while playing breathtakingly badly in the league. They were on fire against us while we were at our worst, that’s all – but they were a worse side, yes.

That makes Kaka’s performance all the more remarkable and I’m sure he will receive the award. Not that it’s bad for Ronaldo. At 22, the so-called Golden Ball might turn his head in a wrong direction. So far this season we saw that he lost nothing of his motivation and hunger despite a very successful season. Being named Europe’s top player might have an adverse effect on him… like on so many others before. Michael Owen ever since 2001? He had acceptable seasons but could never live up to the expectations he set during that glorious campaign. Ronaldinho faded after 2005 – he wasn’t at his best during the spring that ended in a Champions League victory for Barcelona (he was very subdued in the final) and his form has been sliding down ever since.

Sooner or later, Ronaldo will get that European Footballer of the Year award if he keeps progressing the way he does. He needs to do more against the biggest teams, must prove he can cut it against Europe’s elite. And then he can be mentioned in the same breath as Milan’s maestro.