World Player likely to be Henry

KEITH BRADFORD -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

There's a Frenchman, a Ukrainian and a Brazilian.

And one of them is going to be named FIFA's World Player of the Year.

But the battle to win the coveted crown isn't just about Thierry Henry, Andriy Shevchenko and Ronaldinho.

It's also about England, Italy and Spain.

Because each of the three finalists have come to represent not just their clubs, but the leagues in which they play.

So the debate over who should be named the world's best soccer player has grown into a much wider discussion. Namely, which is the world's best league?

Henry, like England's Premiership, is all about pace, power and skill.

Shevchenko, on the other hand, is every bit as tactically aware and technically brilliant as most of the Serie A teams he terrorizes on a weekly basis.

Then there's the bucktoothed Brazilian Ronaldinho. His unique blend of skill, creativity and vision - and an inability to defend - is a luxury only Spain's La Liga could afford. But he's worth it.

He might not be the most complete player, but he's definitely one of the most exciting to watch. Even if he smiles too much - man, that must be annoying for opponents - and ... erm, looks a little strange.

"I'm ugly, but I've got charm," was his slightly more elegant way of putting it on FIFA's website.

A PREVIOUS TOP-THREE FINISHER

However, this year's winner will likely be Henry - and England.

If only because the man nicknamed the "express train" is the only finalist who was also in last year's top three.

That's not to say he doesn't deserve to win. He was arguably the biggest single reason that a breathtaking Arsenal team went unbeaten for an entire league season last year.

And he's been producing at the top level, week in, week out, for years.

But there are still some who question his performances in big games. And his team Arsenal, like the rest of England's top clubs, have failed to win Europe's biggest prize - the Champions League - in the last few years.

But he'd still be a better choice than Shevchenko, a recent Champions League winner with AC Milan.

Shev has been scoring goals for fun for years, so he's a deserved finalist.

But it's difficult to get excited about a goalpoacher.

Especially one who says: "When a striker has the ball, he must think of nothing but scoring."

Clinical. Brilliant. And so boring.

Ronaldinho struggled with his form after joining Paris St. Germain at the age of 21.

So "talented but inconsistent" was the buzz that surrounded him when he was touted for a move to England's Manchester United in the summer of 2003.

He ended up at Barca instead, a team seemingly in freefall.

And many thought it was too much to ask for the mercurial Brazilian to lift the team on his shoulders.

But he's done just that - and in some style. "When you're lucky enough to have a player like that on your team, you give him complete freedom to do what he wants.

"I don't give him any instructions at all," Barca coach Frank Rijkaard told FIFA's website.

BRILLIANT BRAZILIAN SHOULD WIN

It's the kind of approach you'd be unlikely to see in England, which has never had the courage to build teams around natural talent like Glenn Hoddle and Matt Le Tissier.

And definitely not in Italy - where defence, not attack, is always the first priority.

That's why Spain's La Liga, thanks to its love of players with flair, deserves the title of the world's best league.

And why the bucktoothed but brilliant Ronaldinho should win the FIFA World Player of the Year award - by a smile.

- Who is your world player of the year? Email me at kbradford@edmsun.com


Videos

Photos