Though last year's winner Cristiano Ronaldo finished second-best to Lionel Messi at the FIFA World Player Gala 2009 as far as the year's best men's player award was concerned, the 24-year-old did not leave the Kongresshaus in Zurich empty-handed. The Portuguese maestro won the inaugural FIFA Puskás Award for the most outstanding goal of the 2008/09 season, named after Ferenc Puskas who was captain and lynchpin of the legendary Hungarian team of the 1950s.
"I am very proud of this award, it's a great honour for me," said Ronaldo after the ceremony which crowned his goal in the return leg of the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League between Porto and Manchester United on 15 April 2009. Ronaldo gave his then employers a 1-0 lead with an incredible strike from 40 yards which helped send them through to the next round.
Over 120,000 fans took the opportunity to vote on FIFA.com, with ten outstanding goals to choose from, and Ronaldo's dream strike garnered some 17.68 per cent of the vote. "It was incredible, a fantastic goal," said Ronaldo to FIFA.com afterwards. "If you asked me how to score a goal like that I wouldn’t be able to tell you. It’s just hitting it hard and seeing the net billow, that’s all."
Just behind Ronaldo came Barcelona's Andres Iniesta, who got 15.64 per cent with an outstanding first-time shot from the edge of the area in the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Chelsea which made the score 1-1 and sent his team into the final, which they would go on to win. "It was a moment of pure joy," said the Spaniard of his goal. "It made a lot of people very happy. It was spectacular and magical."
Third place went to Brazilian striker Grafite with 13.39 per cent, whose back-heeled effort for eventual German champions Wolfsburg made it 5-1 over mighty Bayern Munich. Eliran Atar (13.36 per cent) of Israeli top league outfit Bnei Yehoda came just behind Grafite with an acrobatic overhead kick in his side's 1-1 league draw with Maccabi Netanya. "I had no other choice, it was the only way I could hit it," said Atar. "I practise that all the time in training and in this situation it came off to perfection."
In fifth place came UEFA EURO 2008 winner Fernando Torres (9.44 per cent). In Liverpool's 4-0 home win in the Premier League over Blackburn Rovers, El Nino sent a screamer from the right-hand edge of the area into the top left-hand corner of the net. When asked to talk us through the goal, the 25-year-old grinned his trademark cheeky smile and said: "Luck!"
Rounding out the top ten of goals for 2008/09 were Brazil's Nilmar (Internacional, 8.71 per cent), Ghana's Michael Essien (Chelsea, 7.85 per cent), Mexican Luis Angel Landin (Cruz Azul, 7.30 per cent), former Arsenal front-runner Emmanuel Adebayor (4.04 per cent) and finally Katlego Mphela (2.59 per cent) for his goal for South Africa at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009.