PARIS, Dec 2 (Reuters) - AC Milan and Brazil playmaker Kaka was awarded the 2007 Ballon d'Or by French magazine France Football on Sunday.
Kaka, who won the Champions League with Milan last season, beat Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Barcelona's Lionel Messi of Argentina, who were second and third respectively.
Until last year, when Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro won the award after leading his side to World Cup glory in Germany, 52 European journalists voted for a player from a European club.
For this year's award, 96 journalists from around the world voted and the shortlist of 50 players featured players based in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, the United States and Qatar.
Kaka earned 444 points to Ronaldo's 277 and Messi's 255. Chelsea's Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba was fourth on 108 points with AC Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo fifth with 41 points.
For the first time since 2003, Brazil's Ronaldinho was out of the top five in 12th place.
'To be honest, I was expecting it a little bit,' Kaka was quoted as saying by France Football's website.
'I won the Champions League and was the competition's top scorer. That's what made the difference with the others.
'Cristiano Ronaldo lost to AC Milan in the Champions League. Had he won maybe he would have won the award. And Milan would not have played Liverpool in the final, let alone have won the trophy,' he added.
'That is the key. You have to play in a winning team.'
The elegant Kaka is already the winner of the FIFPro world Player of the Year and UEFA European Club Player of the Year awards and is the big favourite for FIFA's World Player of the Year award to be announced later this month.
His 10 goals in guiding Milan to their seventh European Cup triumph in May set up this flurry of awards in a year without a World Cup or European championship.