Zinedine Zidane has won FIFA's prestigious Golden Ball award for the best player of the 2006 World Cup, despite his dismissal in Sunday's final against Italy for headbutting defender Marco Materazzi after an argument on the pitch.
The winner is determined by media representatives from a shortlist drawn by FIFA. Past recipients include German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, Brazil's Ronaldo and Argentina's Maradona.
Zidane polled 2012 points in the vote by journalists covering the tournament, narrowly ahead of Italian duo Fabio Cannavaro (1977 points) and Andrea Pirlo (715 points), FIFA said. Zidane had orchestrated France's surprise advance to the final with a return to his stunning form of old that enabled his team to knock out Spain, Brazil and Portugal.
But the taciturn, shy 34-year-old, who has been known to succumb to fits of temper on the pitch on occasion, also had the worst disciplinary record in the tournament, having been suspended for the group game against Togo after picking up two yellow cards in France's first two matches.
Journalists voted for the best player at half-time during the final, before Zidane got his red card.
There has been no word from Zidane about what possessed him to attack Materazzi. The offense and red card spoiled what had been billed as a glorious departure from professional football and robbed France of its superiority over Italy in the final minutes of the game and the ensuing penalty shoot out.
Coach defends Zidane
France coach Raymond Domenech said after the match: "Something happened, that's for sure. I can't imagine that Zidane wanted to be sent off." Domenech said Zidane had been the victim of rough treatment from his Italian opponents throughout the final in Berlin's Olympic Stadium.
"When one has to put up with what he had to for 80 minutes and the referee doesn't do anything, one understands. You can't excuse it but you can understand it. To see him finish his career in this way is sad. He has had a great career and a great World Cup."
Former France team mate Frank Leboeuf, who won the 1998 World Cup in 1998 with Zidane, was more critical. "I cannot accept what he did," the ex-Chelsea defender told BBC Radio 5 Live.
"I think Materazzi said something very bad to him for him to react like that. But it doesn't matter what he said -- you cannot agree with what he did. I feel very ashamed -- because it is not the kind of thing that this team does."
"He has been such a great footballer and a wonderful human being ... I don't understand what happened," he added. "He has a hot temper; he can react, as we have seen two or three times in his career.
"He is a very shy person, a quiet guy -- not the kind of guy to show the image he did yesterday. He should have been focused on the real target -- the World Cup. To go out like that, end his great career like that, is a pity."
French defender William Gallas said: "Zidane didn't say anything. He was very disappointed for everybody -- for the team and himself. I'm very sad for him. It was his last World Cup and everybody wanted to win for him. We deserved to win but that is life. I think we played very well and better than Italy, but sometimes football is very strange."
Italy coach Marcello Lippi said: "It is really bizarre that he has to finish his career this way."
Andrea Pirlo, named man of the match by FIFA, said it was totally out of character with Zidane's image. "It was an instinctive thing. Perhaps he was nervous or tired. But he remains a great champion nevertheless," Pirlo said.
Britain's Guardian newspaper said in an editorial: "Footballers generally operate a law of omerta on such matters, and Zidane is a reluctant talker at the best of times, so we may never be really sure what Materazzi did or said that provoked him into one of the acts of retaliatory violence that have studded his otherwise brilliant passage through the game.
"Whatever the cause, however, after 108 matches and 31 goals for France it was saddening to watch the great man leave the pitch, and football, in such an unsatisfactory manner."