September 24 – Same old, nothing new. Lionel Messi, with almost weary predictability, won the top men’s player prize at the Best FIFA Football Awards in Milan on Monday as Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, the two other short-listed nominees, missed out – the former staying away from the glittering but stuttering ceremony that somehow managed to lurch on to national broadcaster TV screens last night.
It was the sixth time Messi had been voted the world’s best, after wins in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015 even though his Barcelona team were knocked out of the Champions League in the semi-final with a humiliating 4-0 second leg defeat.
United States World Cup-winning forward Megan Rapinoe won the best women’s award while Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was named men’s coach of the year after a season in which they beat Tottenham 2-0 to lift the Champions League. They also finished second in the Premier League with 97 points – the third-highest tally recorded in the competition.
Among the less publicised prizes, Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa won the fair play award after he ordered his team to allow Aston Villa to score an uncontested equaliser during their 1-1 draw in their English Championship match in April. Bielsa’s side had gone ahead controversially when the Villa players stopped as they expected the ball to be kicked out of play due to one of their players getting injured, only for the Argentine to intervene.
The fans award went to Brazilian Silvia Grecco who narrates games to her blind son. The Brazilian’s story received 58.36pc of votes in what was the fourth edition of the Best FIFA Football Awards, set up after FIFA ended its association with the Ballon d’Or.
Three players who featured in last season’s Premier League were included in the Fifa Fifpro Team of the Year, but none strangely from champions Manchester City. Liverpool had two players selected but five others, surprisingly including Mohamed Salah, were overlooked – as was Tottenham’s Harry Kane.
FIFA FIFPro Men’s World11:
Goalkeeper – Alisson (Liverpool/Brazil)
Defenders – Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax and Juventus/Netherlands), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid/Spain), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool/Netherlands), Marcelo (Real Madrid/Brazil).
Midfielders – Luka Modric (Real Madrid/Croatia), Frenkie de Jong (Ajax and Barcelona/Netherlands), Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Real Madrid/Belgium)
Forwards – Kylian Mbappe (Paris St-Germain/France), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Portugal), Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina)
Rapinoe makes her point
Rapinoe won her award ahead of fellow American Alex Morgan and England’s Lucy Bronze. Rapinoe’s international boss, Jill Ellis, took the women’s coach award.
Rapinoe has been at the forefront of calling for equal pay for women and in a passionate speech highlighted what she perceived to be rampant inequalities in football.
“Some of the stories that inspired me this year are [Manchester City forward] Raheem Sterling and [Napoli defender] Kalidou Koulibaly – their incredible performances on the field and their reaction to the disgusting racism they have to face, this year but probably for their whole lives,” she told the star-studded audience.
“I feel like if we really want to have meaningful change, what I think is most inspiring would be if everybody other than Sterling and Koulibaly were as outraged about racism as they were. If everybody was as outraged about homophobia as the LGBTQ players, if everybody was as outraged about equal pay or the lack thereof, or the lack of investment in the women’s game, other than just women, that would be the most inspiring thing to me.
“We have such an incredible opportunity being professional footballers, so much success, an incredible platform. I ask everyone here, lend your platform to other people, share your success. We have a unique opportunity to use this game to actually change the world for better. I hope you take that to heart, do something, we have incredible power in this room.”
FIFA FIFPro Women’s World11:
Goalkeeper: Sari van Veenendal
Defenders: Lucy Bronze, Nilla Fischer, Kelley O’Hara, Wendie Renard
Midfielders: Julie Ertz, Amandine Henry, Rose Lavelle
Forwards: Marta, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe
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