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World's Best Player to be Ignored
World Soccer, November 20th, 2007 5:30PM

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It's awards season in the soccer world. On Dec. 2, France Football's Golden Ball (the former European Player of the Year award now open to players from any league in the world) will be handed out followed soon thereafter by FIFA's World Player of the Year. AC Milan forward Kaka is widely expected to sweep both awards, with honorable mentions going to Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo. All are fantastic players, but World Soccer's Gavin Hamilton laments that due to the Euro-centric approach of both awards, one worthy figure will surely be left out.

Few would dispute that Juan Roman Riquelme had the best season of his career in 2007. Playing for Boca Juniors at the end of last season in his native Argentina, Riquelme led the Buenos Aires club to the Copa Libertadores title -- South America's equivalent to Europe's Champions
League -- scoring a tournament-high eight goals as a central midfielder. He was also voted the competition's most valuable player.

Riquelme has been no less spectacular for Argentina. During this summer's Copa America, Riquelme was the fulcrum of an Argentina attack praised around the world for the quality of its play. He led Argentina to the final, where it was disappointingly out-muscled by Brazil, but once again he was named that tournament's most valuable player. Riquelme continues to play outstanding soccer for Argentina in World Cup qualifying, but he has yet to play professional club soccer this
season due to a falling out with Spanish club Villarreal's management. Unfortunately, that row—and the growing influence of UEFA's Champion's League over the end of year awards -- will deprive what Hamilton feels to be the world's best player from receiving his due honors.

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