Cult of Messi picks up Best award; Bonmati crowns her outstanding year

January 16 – Another awards ceremony. More back-slapping and ceremonial glitz and glamour.

But can we really take it seriously when Lionel Messi’s goals for Inter Miami earn him the Fifa Best Men’s Player Award over Erling Haaland’s treble-winning exploits for Manchester City?

And when Messi wasn’t even there to collect the prize at Monday’s ceremony which took place at the Hammersmith Apollo in London?

And when the top players in Africa and Asia were on the other side of the world with their respective countries?

Maybe Messi thought that he had no chance of winning the award yet again after what was hardly his most productive year. After all, Haaland scored 52 times in his debut season with City.

Ultimately Messi and Haaland both claimed 48 points from the poll among national team coaches and captains plus a series of hand-picked journalists and fans. Messi was crowned victor thanks to more first-choice nominations. Third with 35 points was the other short-listed nominee, France captain Kylian Mbappe.

The FIFA Best Awards generally cover a calendar year and are different to the more prestigious Ballon d’Or, which reflect performances across a season.

However, this year, the men’s awards were judged from 19 December, 2022 to 20 August 2023, because the Qatar World Cup was included in last year’s ceremony.

The award only covered the period after Messi had led Argentina to World Cup glory in December 2022 to August 2023. During that time the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner had a subdued end to his career at Paris Saint-Germain before joining MLS side Inter Miami in June.

By contrast, Aitana Bonmati’s selection as the best women’s player was never in doubt as she completed a clean sweep after helping Spain to win the World Cup and Barcelona to Champions League glory in 2023.

The 25-year-old playmaker also won the Ballon d’Or, Golden Ball for player of the World Cup and UEFA’s player of the year in recent months.

“A couple of weeks ago when 2023 came to an end I was nostalgic because 2023 was an exceptional and unique year I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Bonmati. “I’m proud of being part of a powerful generation of women who are changing the rules of the game and the world.”

Pep Guardiola was named best men’s coach after masterminding City’s first ever Champions League success while England national team boss Sarina Wiegman won the women’s coach of the year after leading the Lionesses to the World Cup final.

“We’re here because we won a lot and the thousands of people involved in our success,” said Guardiola. “I’m really happy for the season we had because it was an incredible journey. In the end we did it, but the pleasure of being there was incredible.”

Men’s team of the year: 

Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), John Stones, Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva (all Manchester City), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland (both Manchester City), Kylian Mbappe (Paris St-Germain), Lionel Messi (Inter Miami) and Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid).

Women’s Team of the year:

Mary Earps (Manchester United, England), Lucy Bronze (Barcelona, England), Olga Carmona (Real Madrid, Spain), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City, England), Aitana Bonmati (Barcelona, Spain), Ella Toone (Manchester United, England), Keira Walsh (Barcelona, England), Lauren James (Chelsea, England), Sam Kerr (Chelsea, Australia), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave, USA), Alessia Russo (Manchester United/Arsenal, England)

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