In perhaps the least surprising news you’ll hear all year: Lionel Messi won the FIFA Best Men’s Player award.
It’s been a memorable 12 months in an unrivalled career for Messi, who finally got his hands on the trophy that had always eluded him – the World Cup.
The Argentina icon dragged his nation to glory in Qatar and his efforts were recognised by the fans, coaches and captains of national teams as well as the 300 journalists worldwide who voted as he claimed his second Best Men’s player award.
On winning the prize, which he beat Paris Saint-Germain teammate Kylian Mbappe and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema to, Messi said: “Wow, it’s amazing.
“It’s been a tremendous year and it’s an honour for me to be here tonight and win this award. Without my teammates I wouldn’t be here.
“I achieved the dream I had been hoping for for so long. Very few people can achieve that and I have been lucky to do so.”
Messi also made the Men’s XI, his 16th inclusion, which sees him surpass Cristiano Ronaldo on 15 selections.
It was the first time since 2006 Ronaldo missed out and Messi was joined in the line-up by PSG teammates Mbappe and Achraf Hakimi. Real Madrid trio Thibaut Courtois, Luka Modric and Benzema also made the ultimate team.
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There was Premier League presence in the XI, with Manchester City trio Erling Haaland adding to the deadly attack, Kevin De Bruyne and Joao Cancelo getting in, while Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk and Manchester United maestro Casemiro also made it.
Unsurprisingly it was a successful night for Argentina with Emi Martinez claiming the Best Goalkeeper award, while Alibiceleste boss Lionel Scaloni won Best Men’s Coach. Argentina also won the Best Fan’s award.
In the women’s game it was a different story with huge success for England’s Lionesses.
Manager Sarina Wiegman, who guided them to Euro 2022 glory, won the Best Women’s Coach award.
Wiegman said: “The Euros were incredible. The stadiums were full, Wembley was full and there were so many families in the stadiums and they were all celebrating football. As the English say, we brought it home.
“From when I could walk, I loved football and over the years I’ve seen how the women’s game has grown and developed.
“It’s incredible to be here right now and celebrate women’s football in the world. We have heroes in this room, little girls have their idols. They have inspirations.
“So many people across the world have worked so hard to get the game where it is right now. We would like to thank them for that because it’s fundamental for the women’s game.
“But with the growth of the game are also a couple of dangers. Because we want to go faster and go bigger, the players become better and the facilities become better, but the dangers we have to take care of too.
“Yes we want to develop, but we also have to do the right things. Everyone who is part of the women’s game has the responsibility for that.
“We are competing on the pitch, but off the pitch we should be a team and work all together to grow the game even more. I hope we will do that together.”
Lioness Mary Earps won the Best Women’s Goalkeeper award, however, forward Beth Mead missed out on the Best Women’s Player award to Barcelona and Spain superstar Alexis Putellas.
The Best Women’s XI had FOUR English representatives with Mead, Kiera Walsh, Leah Williamson and Lucy Bronze all selected.
There was a poignant moment at the beginning of the glitzy ceremony in Paris, with a tribute being paid to Pele, who passed away aged 82 following a battle with cancer in December.
Elsewhere, Georgian footballer Luka Lochoshvili won the Fair Play award for saving an opponent’s life. Lochoshvili, who was playing for Austrian side Wolfsberger prevented opponent Georg Teigl from swallowing his tongue when Teigl had lost consciousness following a collision.
The Puskas Award, which has previously been won by superstars including Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Mohamed Salah and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was won by Polish amputee Marcin Oleksy, beating Richarlison and Dimitri Payet to the prize.
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