Legends that are set in stone
Footballers' careers are usually measured by their haul of medals. Individual awards are few and far between. Those personal awards are usually handed out on a periodical basis, by year or by season or tournament. The winners of the Ballon D'Or and the FIFA World Player Award are both handed out at the end of any given year to reflect achievements during the last 12 months.
ESPN Soccernet's status as a media partner and your correspondent's as an "expert" gave Soccernet the chance to attend the awards ceremony in the principality and see which of Beckham, Buffon, Figo, Gerrard, Giggs, Henry, Raul, Ronaldinho, Totti and Trezeguet would be granted the chance to leave the imprint of their feet on the Champions Promenade which overlooks the seafront of Monte Carlo.
The award for current or, in the case of Luis Figo, recently retired players are not the only function of Golden Foot. The organisation, the brainchild of businessman Antonio Caliendo, seeks to honour the great and the good of football's past. Every year sees a group of "Legends" selected to place their footprints on the promenade and the list reads like a collection of the very best. Zidane, Maradona, Di Stefano, Puskas and George Best have all placed the part of the body with which they made their name to be captured for posterity.
This year saw five legends honoured. Karl-Heinz Rumenigge, Bayern, Inter and West Germany striker of the 70s and 80s joined Eastern European contemporaries Oleg Blokhin, forward with Dynamo Kiev and the old USSR team, and Poland's Zbignew Boniek, an attacking star of Juventus' machine of the 1980s. From South America came Rene Higuita, the Colombian maverick of goalkeeping mavericks who once bewitched the world with an eccentric style which also included him playing the role of sweeper, and Nilton Santos, half-back for Brazil's World Cup-winning teams of 1958 and 1962.
Santos, now aged 84, failed to make the trip but was represented by José Luiz Rolim, vice-president of Botafogo, the Rio club where Nilton made his name. Higuita, as efferverscent off the pitch as he was on it, made it a family trip with his son and daughter in tow. Meanwhile the three Europeans shared many a joke on the promenade and at the ceremony itself as three brothers-in-arms who bestrode the world game of their era. Rummenigge, now one of Bayern's figureheads, cuts an aristocratic figure these days and switched impressively between three languages as he spoke to press and well-wishers, even taking the time to recall to an Algerian journalist West Germany's shock at losing to Algeria at Espana '82.
Boniek and Blokhin are both currently out of the game, both having previously served as their country's head coach. They and the other two present legends were introduced to the audience via clips of their footballing careers, with all drawing rapturous applause. Special gasps were spared for the Higuita video and especially the fabled "scorpion kick" he performed at Wembley in 1995. Still capable of not bothering to use the stairs on his way to perform the ritual placing of his foot in the mould of the paving stone, Higuita still looks and acts like the cavalier he was in his playing days. He even added his hand-print to his memorial. "I left a mark of my right foot and of my left hand. Because I think that they were both important in my career," he tells the audience. To become a champion you must use your whole body, especially your head."
The award for a current star seemed headed for Ronaldinho when he was spotted taking lunch with his sister earlier in the day but that picture was clouded after David Trezeguet appears with wife in tow. "Trez" still has a house in the town where he made his footballing name and he is not the only surprise guest. The presence of royalty is added when Prince Albert II of Monaco arrives to hand over the award. Ronaldinho, after all, is the winner and shows off his trademark toothy grin before taking off his shoes and socks to be able to add his footprint to the Champions Promenade.
Ronaldinho, yet to hit his stride at AC Milan after the glory years at Barcelona, is keen to stress this award does not mean the end of time at the top. Milan are not enjoying the best of seasons but the Brazilian, by now swamped with cameras and microphones, says: "My next goal is to keep on winning with AC Milan. We just need to win four or five matches and everything can change."
The formalities done, the new legend joins the others in a charity auction, bidding successfully for a pair of Higuita's gloves, exchanging a bear-hug and an intimate chat with his fellow South American. Boniek, now in the swing of the party, celebrates winning an old-style CCCP shirt signed by his friend Blokhin before, as the band strikes up, all peel into the Monte Carlo evening to sample the delights of this rich man's refuge.
• Click here for further information on the Golden Foot Awards.