By Andrew Warshaw
October 24 – Cristiano Ronaldo was duly crowned the world’s best player for the second year running at FIFA’s Best Awards gala on Monday but that didn’t tell the whole story.
Real Madrid’s Portuguese superstar, who scored twice against Juventus in the Champions League final to help Real become the first team to retain the trophy in its current format, gained 43.16% of the vote – made by national team coaches and captains, selected journalists and, for the first time, an online poll of fans – ahead of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (19.25%) and Brazil’s Neymar (6.97%).
He was also one of five Madrid players selected in the FIFPro Team of the Year while boss Zinedine Zidane was Coach of the Year.
The World Player of the Year award was merged with the Ballon d’Or in 2010 but they are now separate occasions after FIFA ended the association and shifted its ceremony, now in its second year and staged for the first time in London, from the traditional January slot to October so players are judged across a European season rather than the calendar year.
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud won the Puskas Award for the best goal of the year, the Frenchman’s scorpion kick against Crystal Palace, and Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon was declared best goalkeeper.
The Netherlands’ Lieke Martens who scored in the Euro 2017 final win over Denmark, won the female player’s award. She gained 21.72% of the vote over American Carli Lloyd 16.28%, who won last year. Third was US-based Venezuelan teenager Deyna Castellanos while the Netherlands’s Sarina Wiegman collected the women’s coaching accolade.
The ceremony also included a Fair Play Award, which recognised the gesture by Togo’s Francis Kone for performing life-saving first aid on Bohemians 1905 goalkeeper Martin Berkovec during a Czech League game in February.
As star-studded ceremonies go, FIFA did its best to add a light-hearted touch to the slick formalities, with hand-picked fans joining a Who’s Who of celebrities in the audience at the Palladium theatre in London. Actor Idris Elba, host for the night, couldn’t resist snapping a couple of selfies with the finest footballers on the planet.
The class act of the night was Buffon, who at 39 helped Juve to a sixth consecutive Serie A title, shrugging off the offer of a translator to deliver a moving speech in heavily accented English.
But there was widespread dismay about one particular accolade – Celtic picking up over half the votes to win the fans’ award. The Scottish champions won for putting on an impressive full-stadium green and white display of support during the final match of the Scottish league season, acknowledging the 50th anniversary of the club’s European Cup triumph in 1967.
Yet the award came on the day Celtic were handed their 12th UEFA sanction in six years, this time following a supporter running on to the pitch and aiming a kick at Kylian Mbappe during the recent Champions league clash again Paris St Germain.
Incredibly Celtic, who have been sanctioned for numerous other misdemeanours over the years including displaying sectarian banners, won the prestigious prize ahead of the special gestures made by Borussia Dortmund and FC Copenhagen respectively.
Dortmund’s fans offered spontaneous overnight shelter to Monaco supporters when a bomb attack on the Dortmund team bus resulted in a Champions League game between the two sides being postponed for 24 hours. And Copenhagen put celebrations on hold after making a point of letting disabled fans lift the trophy after the club won the Danish Cup – including a wheelchair-bound supporter.
“If Celtic fans won the best fans in the world surely PSG should win a financial fair play award,” said one sarcastic Tweet.
Here is the full list of awards:
Men’s Player of the Year: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Women’s Player of the Year: Lieke Martens (Netherlands)
Goalkeeper of the Year: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)
Male coach of the year: Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid)
Female Coach of the Year: Sarina Wiegman (Netherlands)
Fans of the Year: Celtic
Puskas Best Goal: :Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)
Fair Play Award: Francis Kone
FIFPro Team of the Year: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus, Italy) – Dani Alves (Juventus/Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus/Milan, Italy), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid, Spain), Marcelo (Real Madrid, Brazil) – Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona, Spain), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid, Germany), Luka Modrić (Real Madrid, Croatia) – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, Portugal), Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Argentina), Neymar (Barcelona/Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil).
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