1998 and 2000, Zinedine Zidane
Lynchpin of the French FIFA World Cup-winning side of 1998, playmaker of the European Championship winners of 2000, "Zizou" has won the FIFA World Player of the Year award on two previous occasions. 2002 was a special year for Zidane, as he put the final touches to his trophy cabinet. In fact, he can just about throw away the key to that trophy cabinet - he's got the lot! European Footballer of the Year back in 1998, he can now place the Champions League and Intercontinental Cup winner's medals he collected this year with Real Madrid alongside his personal awards.
Like a fine wine, Zizou just seems to get better with age. He was always able to pull out defence-splitting passes and spellbind opposition defences with his dazzling dribbles, but as the years have rolled by he has added other facets to his game. His free-kicks have taken on postage-stamp precision and he now weighs in with his fair share of goals from all over the park - usually match-winning ones at that. Yet the man remains the same; modesty itself. His two headed goals in the Final of the 1998 FIFA World Cup France™ are part of football folklore, but ask him about them and he'll say Aimé Jacquet is the man to thank. After all he was the one who noticed the Brazilians were lax markers at corners. And in case we thought those headers couldn't be beaten, Zizou's winning volley into the top corner of the Bayer Leverkusen net in this year's Champions League Final proved us wrong.
It is hardly surprising that Rivaldo's favourite film is "Titanic"; after all, he too knows how it feels to be "on top of the world!". 1999 saw him at the peak of his powers: FIFA World Player of the Year, winner of the Copa America with Brazil, Spanish Champion with Barcelona. He dedicated his FIFA World Player of the Year award to his father, who died in a car accident when Rivaldo was 16: "He was the one who convinced me I could be a winner, at a time when a lot of people were sceptical about my chances," he explained.
The man with the magic left foot is a footballing free spirit, usually operating in the space behind the front two. A constant threat, he is able to burst the back of the net with bullet-like strikes from any range, something he achieved with regular ease during his time at Barcelona. His exploits at the Nou Camp were legendary, and included a fantastic hat-trick against Valencia in 2001, rounded off with a breathtaking overhead kick in injury time to send the blaugranas into the Champions League. He had an excellent 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, finding the net five times, including a wonder goal against Belgium that saw him bring down the ball with his right foot before crashing an unstoppable volley into the net with his left. Rivaldo loves lasagne, and that's no bad thing because he now plies his trade in Italy with AC Milan!
2001, Luis Figo
"I am nothing without a football". The great Portuguese playmaker's devotion to the game is summed up in this modest declaration. The right-sided midfield artist, five times voted Portuguese Player of the Year, is just about the complete footballer. His talent shone through from a very early age. Carlos Queiroz, his coach at Sporting Club de Portugal, said: "Even at 11, Luis towered above the others." After claiming a World Under 20 winner's medal in 1991 as part of a supremely talented team, which included Joao Pinto and Rui Costa, Luis packed his bags for Barcelona in 1995.
In Catalonia he won the Liga in 1998 and 1999, the Spanish Cup in 1997 and 1998 and the European Super Cup in 1997. 2000 heralded another challenge as he left to join the illustrious Real Madrid ranks - something the Barcelona socios still have not forgiven him for! The same year he was voted Player of the Tournament at Euro 2000 where he helped his team to third place and scored an unforgettable rasping 30-yard goal against England just when his side needed it most!