Star midfielder for Italy's Juventus and the Czech Republic, Pavel Nedved, has won this year's Golden Ball award given to Europe's best football (soccer) player of the year.

France Football magazine puts out the prestigious award after a poll is taken among soccer journalists from 52 European countries. Nedved earned 190 points in the voting. Arsenal striker Thierry Henry of France was second with 128 points, and AC Milan's Paolo Maldini was third with 123 points. FIFA player of the year Zinedine Zidane of France finished fifth with 64 points.

The 31-year-old Nedved distinguished himself by leading Juventus to Italy's Serie A championship and then into the European Champions League final. But the Czech midfielder missed the final against eventual champion AC Milan because of a disqualification in the semi-final against favorite Real Madrid.

Known for his relentless stamina, but a player who can do a variety of things when called upon, Nedved was also voted best player of the year by the magazine World Soccer. He is the second Czech to win the prestigious award, known in French as the Ballon d'Or, after Josef Masopust in 1962.