The Golden Ball ("Ballon d'Or"), which has
been awarded to the European Player of the Year since 1956, has gone global.
For the first time, the Golden Ball will awarded without regard to the country in which a player is
For the first 39 years of France's Football
's Golden Ball, the trophy was awarded to a European Player. Since 1995, any player
competing on a European club has been eligible.
This year's list of nominees includes four players competing on teams outside Europe including the Los Angeles Galaxy's David Beckham
The jury of journalists who will select the winner has been expanded from journalists representing 52 European countries to include
journalists representing every non-European country that has played in the World Cup finals. The U.S. representative on the panel
of 96 journalists is Soccer America
managing editor Paul Kennedy
, a France Football correspondent since 1978.
Besides Beckham, the Golden Ball nominees playing for non-European teams are Brazilian
goalie Rogerio Ceni
(Sao Paulo), Mexican goalie Guillermo Ochoa
(Club America) and Iraq's Younis Mahmoud
(Al Gharafa of Qatar's Q-League). Juan Roman Riquelme
is on Villarreal's roster but has not played for the
Spanish club since returning from Argentina's Boca Juniors, which he led to the 2007 Libertadores Cup title.
This year's favorite is Brazilian Kaka
of AC Milan, the 2007 UEFA Champions League winner. Other strong candidates are Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo
of Manchester United and
Argentine Lionel Messi