Lionel Messi once again proved his dominance of modern football by winning the category for best men’s player at this year’s Best FIFA Football Awards.
The Argentine star was the surprise winner as Virgil Van Dijk had been many people’s favourite to get the award. Cristiano Ronaldo also missed out on the top prize, and it proved that there’s nothing like an awards ceremony to create some controversy.
The difference between the Best FIFA Football award and Ballon d’Or
The Ballon d’Or was created in 1956 to honour Europe’s best men’s football player of that year. It was established by France Football, and it was commonly known as the European Footballer of the Year award.
In 1991 FIFA created their own award for the World Player of the Year. Both of these awards coexisted until 2010 when they merged to become the FIFA Ballon d’Or. From 2016, the two awards separated which meant that there could be two different winners once more.
The Ballon d’Or is decided by a panel of journalists, while the FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award has a complicated voting system that includes experts like Lothar Matthaus and Xavi, team coaches, captains and fans.
There are numerous theories about why the awards decided to split. Some have suspected that FIFA arranged the split to improve their relations with the English Football Association. In addition, the fact that the award ceremony was held in Zurich rather than London was another big factor behind the decision.
Despite all of the controversy, these awards shows still present pretty good entertainment as football’s best players reveal once again that they haven’t mastered the art of public speaking.
However, honourable mention must be made of the transcendental speech by Eric Cantona at this year’s Uefa Champions League draw. Once Lionel Messi manages to combine Shakespeare tragedies and promises that all humans ‘will become eternal’, then he really could become the greatest footballer of all time.
Recent winners of the FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award:
- 2019: Lionel Messi
- 2018: Luka Modric
- 2017: Cristiano Ronaldo
- 2016: Cristiano Ronaldo
- 2015: Lionel Messi
- 2014: Cristiano Ronaldo
- 2013: Cristiano Ronaldo
- 2012: Lionel Messi
- 2011: Lionel Messi
- 2010: Lionel Messi
Why did Messi win the best men’s player award?
Most people would agree that Lionel Messi is easily one of the world’s best football players. But critics have stated that the Argentine star didn’t really deserve the FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award this time around.
This is because he only managed to win La Liga with Barcelona last season, and the side went out in the Champions League semi-finals and lost the Copa del Rey final. In addition to this, Messi could only help Argentina get to the semi-finals of the Copa America.
We should also mention the embarrassing fact that the striker was also banned from international football for three months by accusing Copa America referees of bias.
Despite these reservations, it is clear that Messi has been in great form through the year. In the award’s qualifying period, the star scored 54 goals in 58 games, captained Barcelona to their second-successive La Liga title, won the European Golden Boot, and also became the highest scorer in the Champions League.
At 32 years of age, there might be fears that Messi is slowing down. But he has still managed to show some astonishing skill as was witnessed during his incredible Champions League performance against Tottenham at Wembley.
In addition to this, Messi scored hat-tricks against the likes of PSV Eindhoven and Sevilla, and looked very comfortable wearing the Barcelona captain’s armband.
It marked the sixth time that Messi has been voted the world’s best, and it’s his first individual award since the 2015 Ballon d’Or. While there was plenty of competition from familiar rivals like Cristiano Ronaldo, there was little arguing with the exceptional quality of football shown by the Argentine star over the past year.
As a result, Messi won his first FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award, to put alongside his five Ballon d’Or trophies and his World Player of the Year award.
Was Virgil Van Dijk robbed of the award?
Many football fans would have had the Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk as the front-runner to win the FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award. The Dutch star has been in commanding form for Liverpool over the past year and came achingly close to helping the side pick up their first-ever Premier League title.
Van Dijk has gone from relative obscurity to become one of the world’s best players. The 28-year was languishing in mid-table mediocrity with Southampton less than two years ago.
Since then his performances as a centre-back have transformed Liverpool’s fortunes with remarkably little fuss. In the 59 games that Van Dijk played during the qualifying period, he helped Liverpool keep 29 clean sheets, and he received the 2019 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award in August.
The Dutch player has consistently shown a level of leadership at a time when Liverpool needed it most. Not only did his solidity in defence get Liverpool extremely close to pipping Manchester City to the Premier League title, but his reliability also guided Liverpool to a well-deserved Champions League triumph over Tottenham.
Although Liverpool fans will be annoyed that he didn’t win the FIFA Men’s Player of the Year prize, it’s an award that usually gets given to glory-seeking forwards.
Any football award that is given to individuals rather than the team is usually controversial, and Virgil Van Dijk doesn’t appear to be the kind of player who will let his ego get too bruised by missing out.
Cristiano Ronaldo fails to get the nod
2019 might be one of those rare years where Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t get any individual awards for his exemplary football skill. The battle between Ronaldo and Messi for silverware is one of the most engrossing features of modern football, and it was highly enjoyable to see Ronaldo trying to look approving when Messi picked up the award.
Ronaldo won the FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award in 2016 and 2017, and he has no less than five Ballon d’Or awards to his name.
He shocked the footballing world when he switched clubs from Real Madrid to Juventus last year. But this doesn’t seem to have slowed down Ronaldo’s incredible footballing prowess.
The Portuguese star helped Juventus to a fairly predictable Serie A title and scored 31 goals in 47 games. It’s Ronaldo’s international form that has been truly impressive.
Not only did the 34-year old guide Portugal to an unlikely Nations League triumph, but he has now scored 93 international goals and is quickly closing in on the all-time world international goalscorer record.
While all of these statistics are undeniably impressive, Ronaldo had to go home from the 2019 Best Fifa Football Awards empty-handed.
Other contenders in this category included Liverpool’s Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint Germain, Frenkie de Jong of Barcelona, Eden Hazard of Real Madrid, Mattijs de Ligt of Juventus, and Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur.
Who else won at the Best Fifa Football Awards 2019?
Of course it’s not just individual men’s players who get celebrated at the Best Fifa Football Awards. Here’s a quick rundown of some other key award winners.
Megan Rapinoe – Best women’s player
The 2019 Women’s World Cup was a triumph for many reasons. But it was Megan Rapinoe’s defiant spirit that really captured the headlines.
Not content with being the joint highest-goalscorer, Rapinoe helped her side to another World Cup triumph and even got into a fascinating war of words with President Trump. As a result, the American forward has become a leading light for equality in sport and she will have inspired a new generation of girls to play football.
There was fierce competition from Rapinoe’s teammate Alex Morgan, as well as England’s star player Lucy Bronze. Other contenders included France’s Amandine Henry, the Dutch player Vivianne Miedema, and England’s striker Ellen White. Sari van Veenendaal of the Netherlands won the best women’s goalkeeper award.
Jurgen Klopp – Men’s coach of the year
Although Klopp was perilously close to helping Liverpool claim the Premier League title, he can still claim some consolation with the men’s coach of the year award. It will be all the more sweet as the Liverpool manager got the nod ahead of Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola.
With the Reds still unbeaten in their 2019/20 Premier League campaign, it’s easy to see why Klopp could be among the front-runners for the award again next year.
Marcelo Bielsa – Fair play award
Leeds might not have gained qualification to the Premier League last season, but their boss Marcelo Bielsa was rightly given the fair play award. This was a result of Bielsa allowing Aston Villa to score an equaliser in April’s Championship match against Leeds.
The Villa players had temporarily stopped playing when one of their players was injured and Leeds scored. But with Bielsa on hand to allow an uncontested goal for Villa, it marked a rare moment of true sportsmanship.
Alisson – Best goalkeeper
The Liverpool goalkeeper suffered a very unlucky calf injury in Liverpool’s opening match against Norwich City. But he can take solace in the fact that he beat Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Manchester City’s Ederson to claim the best goalkeeper award. Alisson produced numerous excellent saves in Liverpool’s Champions League win, as well as Brazil’s Copa America triumph.
Daniel Zsori – Best goal
The Puskas award is given to the player who scored the goal of year, and in 2019 it was awarded to the eighteen-year old Daniel Zsori. The young star scored a stunning overhead kick for Debrecen in the 93rd minute against Ferencvaros.
What made this goal all the more incredible was the fact that he had just come on as a substitute for his first ever appearance in the Hungarian League. While Lionel Messi’s stunning chip for Barcelona against Real Betis got an honourable mention, it was the young Hungarian who got the nod from an unlikely panel of judges that included Ronaldo, Miroslav Klose and Michael Owen.
FIFA Fifpro Men’s Team of the Year
If all of these awards didn’t provide enough controversy, then there’s the ever-reliable FIFA Fifpro Men’s Team of the Year to evaluate. This time around it didn’t produce too many surprises with the likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Van Dijk in the imaginary squad.
But with the complete absence of any Manchester City players, it will certainly be contested by fans of the Premier League champions. Here’s a quick rundown of who made FIFA’s top men’s team.
Alisson – Liverpool
Matthijs de Ligt – Ajax / Juventus
Sergio Ramos – Real Madrid
Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool
Marcelo – Real Madrid
Luka Modric – Real Madrid
Frenkie de Jong – Ajax / Barcelona
Eden Hazard – Chelsea / Real Madrid
Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint Germain
Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus
Lionel Messi – Barcelona