England's David Beckham finished in second place in the voting for FIFA World Player of the Year 1999, with Gabriel Batistuta of Argentina third.

David Beckham (24) was born in north-east London, but when he was only 15 he moved to Manchester and has been playing for United since 1989. He had trials as a boy for Tottenham and Arsenal but was always in favour of Manchester United - and his father was fully behind him. Beckham shone right from the start in the youth team, in a side that dominated English junior football in the early 90s. When he was 17 he made his debut in the first team and has since become one of the great club's stars, thanks to his football intelligence, his finely-honed ball skills, his ability to hit superb crosses and his dangerous free kicks and corners.

For coach Alex Ferguson he is "one of those players who make the difference between a good team and a great one." With United he won the Champions League in 1999, and in addition he already has three Premier League titles and two FA Cup winner's medals in his collection. With the national team the quiet and rather retiring midfielder has not yet had the same success. In his 27 international matches so far Beckham has scored only one goal - at the World Cup 1998 in France in the match against Colombia.

Gabriel Batistuta (31) was a keen basketball player as a boy and a very good student as well. "At the time," he recalls, "I wanted to study medicine. A career in sports did not interest me very much." Today he is ranked among the world's best scorers - in football of course. He only took up this sport at the age of 17, in his home town of Reconcquista, where today he owns a huge cattle ranch, which he runs together with his father. He predicts: "One day I shall go back to Argentina and become a farmer and cattle breeder." Football is his profession he says, but not his life. Known as ‘Batigol" for his ability to put the ball in the net, he is very successful in his profession. Both for his club, AC Fiorentina, and the Argentina national team he has scored prolifically (ten goals in all at the World Cups in 94 and 98, top scorer at the Copa America in 1991 and 1995, top scorer in the Italian League 1994). He has been playing in Florence since 1991 and he is revered almost as a saint in the city. With Fiorentina he won the Italian Cup in 1996, and the team qualified for the Champions League 1999/2000.