MONTEVIDEO, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Ronaldinho, who had a disappointing Club World Cup this month, has been elected South American footballer of the year in the annual poll conducted by the Uruguayan daily El Pais.
Ronaldinho, who helped Atletico Mineiro win the Libertadores Cup for the first time in July, finished ahead of fellow Brazilian Neymar, winner the previous two years who left Santos for Barcelona, with Argentina’s Maxi Rodriguez of Newell’s Old Boys third.
A World Cup winner with Brazil in 2002 but unlikely to win a place in the team hosting next year’s finals, Ronaldinho also won Europe’s Ballon d‘Or in 2005 and FIFA’s World Player of the Year award in 2004 and 2005 when he was at Barcelona.
The top three coaches were all Argentine with Jose Pekerman winning the award for the second year in a row after steering Colombia to their first World Cup finals since 1998.
Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli was second and Gerardo Martino, who left Newell’s for Barcelona in July, third. (Reporting by Felipe Llambias; Writing by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires, editing by Pritha Sarkar)