It was the evening where the best football players and coaches are honoured for their heroics in the past calendar year. The Best FIFA Men’s Player was introduced in 2016, and four different winners had been celebrated for one of the most sought after awards in the past six editions, including Cristiano Ronaldo (2), Robert Lewandowski (2), Lionel Messi and Luka Modrić. The seventh edition of this ceremony, on the other hand, saw a clean sweep by the FIFA World Cup-winning nation Argentina, with Lionel Scaloni, Emiliano Martínez and Messi bagging individual awards.
Messi’s Second FIFA Best Men’s Player Award
La Pulga’s biggest rival this year was his Paris Saint-Germain club teammate Kylian Mbappé and Real Madrid’s captain Karim Benzema. The 35-year-old player, who led his country to its third ever world title in Qatar last year, received 52 votes this time around, allowing him to beat both Frenchman, who received 44 and 34 votes respectively. Messi’s second win in this category meant the honour has yet to witness any victory from a French player, since its inception in 2016, although the 24-year-old Mbappé did create history with the best finish (2nd place) for a France footballer in this ceremony.
In his winning speech, Messi acknowledged his teammates for an incredible run and eventual triumph in the quadrennial FIFA World Cup in Qatar, stating that “Wow, this is amazing. It’s been a tremendous year and it’s an honour to win this award. Without my team-mates, I wouldn’t be here. I achieved the dream I had been hoping for so long. Very few people can achieve that and I have been lucky to do so. It’s the most wonderful thing that’s happened to me in my career.”
The second best player in this category, Paris-born Mbappé, extended his congratulation towards his club mate while celebrating his second-placed finish in the contest in an Instagram post on his official account. The caption went “Another trophy at home. Big congratulations to @leomessi you are #TheBest”.
Scaloni and Martínez Accomplished a Complete Argentine Conquest
The next two personal accolades were also won by players from the three-time world champion La Albiceleste, with Luis Scaloni bringing home the Best FIFA Men’s Coach award and Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martínez winning the Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper. The former was appointed as the manager of Argentina national football team in 2018 and quickly reestablished the squad as one of the finest in the world, winning the 2021 Copa América, in addition to last year’s FIFA World Cup victory. Under Scaloni’s time as the manager, La Albiceleste also achieved an impressive 36-game undefeated streak, before their shocking defeat to Saudi Arabia in the opening group match of the tournament in Qatar.
Nevertheless, Martínez’s victory in the ceremony was a controversial one, as he was not included in the FIFPro Men’s World 11. The former Arsenal player was the hero for Argentina in the Qatar World Cup, since he saved multiple spot kicks in penalty shoot-outs as well as the potential winning goal in the dying moments of the final. Argentine supremacy in this ceremony did not end with three individual award victories, as fans from the nation were given the FIFA Fan Award as well.
FIFPro Men’s World 11 Revealed
The annual best 11 players had also been unveiled in the ceremony, with Messi, Mbappé, Benzema and Modrić all included in the line-up. They were joined by Thibaut Courtois (Belgium, Real Madrid), João Cancelo (Portugal, Manchester City), Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands, Liverpool), Achraf Hakimi (Morocco, Paris Saint-Germain), Casemiro (Brazil, Manchester United), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium, Manchester City) and Erling Haaland (Norway, Manchester City).
It was England’s turn to dominate in the women’s awards, with Mary Earps being named the Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper and Sarina Wiegman taking home the Best FIFA Women’s Coach award. The European champion almost completed a total sweep at the women’s honours, but Beth Mead was bettered by Spaniard Alexia Putellas, who retained the Best FIFA Women’s Player award she won last year.