Italy's national football team captain Fabio Cannavaro has won the prestigious Ballon d'Or European footballer of the year award due in large part to his performance at the 2006 World Cup.

European journalists appointed by France Football (the magazine that runs the award) selected Cannavaro as winner with 173 points. Runners up were Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus and national team goalkeeper) with 124 points and Thierry Henry (striker for Arsenal and French national team) with 121 points.

The 33-year-old Neapolitan, who currently plays as defender for Real Madrid, dedicated his trophy to Naples, encouraging the children of his hometown to "believe in their dreams because they can come true, as in my case."

Cannavaro is the fifth Italian to win the Ballon d'Or. It was formerly won by Roberto Baggio (1993), Paolo Rossi (1982), Gianni Rivera (1969) and Omar Sivori (1961).

Cannavaro is also a contender for the 2006 Fifa world player of the year award, which will be announced in Zurich on 18 December.