Cristiano Ronaldo has won the prestigious Ballon d'Or trophy awarded by France Football magazine.
Ronaldo scored 42 goals as Manchester United won the Champions League and Premier League last season.
"It is one of the most beautiful days of my life, something I dreamed of as a child," said the 23-year-old winger.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi was second and Liverpool's Fernando Torres was third while Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were also in the running.
Ac Milan's Brazilian midfielder Kaka won the award last year.
Ronaldo's defining role in United's Double-winning season saw 77 of the 96 journalists on the Ballon D'Or panel vote for him as their number one player of the year.
"Great emotion fills me but I cannot really describe it," Ronaldo continued.
"I was not worried, because I was aware of what I did in the course of the season.
"But to the people who mentioned my name, I say thank you. Thank you also to my team-mates.
"This (trophy) is one that I want to win again because it is so good.
"Therefore, I will wake and I will say to myself 'I want to be even better'."
The Portuguese international became only the fifth player to score more than 30 goals in a Premier League season as United pipped Chelsea to the domestic title.
Ronaldo's tally of 42 goals earned him the Golden Shoe as Europe's top scorer, making him the first winger to collect that honour.
And his 42nd strike of an astonishing season came in Moscow as United drew 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the Champions League final. He went on to miss his spot-kick in the resulting penalty shoot-out but United still triumphed.
The only real disappointment for Ronaldo came at Euro 2008.
The winger was expected to be one of the stars of the tournament but he struggled to lift his side and Portugal went out in the quarter-finals.
A summer of fevered speculation over Ronaldo's future followed after he conceded a dream move would be a switch to Spanish giants Real Madrid.
But United dug their heels in and in October Ronaldo pledged his future to the Old Trafford club.
Torres, meanwhile, enjoyed a phenomenal debut season in the Premier League following his big-money move from Atletico Madrid.
The 24-year-old scored 24 goals for Liverpool, the highest by a foreign player in their maiden season, and went on to score the winner for Spain in the Euro 2008 final.
2008 Ballon d'Or voting
1 Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester Utd) 446 points
2 Lionel Messi (Barcelona) 281 pts
3 Fernando Torres (Liverpool) 179 pts
4 Iker Casillas (Real Madrid) 133 pts
5 Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona) 97 pts
6 Andriy Arshavin (Zenit St-Petersburg) 64 pts
7 David Villa (Valencia) 55 pts
8 Kaka (AC Milan) 31 pts
9 Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter Milan) 30 pts
10 Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) 28 pts
11 Marcos Senna (Villarreal) 16 pts
12 Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal) 12 pts
13 Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) 11 pts
14 Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid) 10 pts
15 Frank Lampard (Chelsea) 8 pts
16 Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich) 7 pts
17 Samuel Eto'o (Barcelona) 6 pts
18 Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) 5 pts
19 Michael Ballack (Chelsea), Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) 4 pts
21 Didier Drogba (Chelsea), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) 3 pts
24 Edwin van der Sar (Manchester United), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Real Madrid), 2 pts