Football Features

‘The classic 3-3-4’ — Reaction from The Best FIFA Awards 2021 as World11 contains just THREE defenders

By Ben Green

Published: 21:10, 17 January 2022

Robert Lewandowski has become only the second player to win consecutive Best FIFA Men’s Player awards after scooping the 2021 crown.

The Bayern Munich forward faced stiff competition from Lionel Messi and Mohamed Salah but ultimately took home the annual gong.

Since the award’s inception in 2016, Cristiano Ronaldo is the only player to win the gong in back-to-back years, doing so in the inaugural ceremony and 2017.

However, he will now be joined by Lewandowski as the joint-highest recipient of the honour after what was another stellar goalscoring 12 months.

The accolade comes after the Poland international just missed out on the Ballon d’Or, though he was awarded the first-ever Ballon d’Or Striker of the Year.

It was an entertaining evening in Zurich as a number of prizes were dished out, including the always-spectacular Puskas Award, as well as the Best Goalkeeper, Best Coach and the FIFA FIFPro World11, with the latter causing plenty of controversy after only three defenders were selected.

Christiane Endler was named The Best Women’s Goalkeeper for 2021 after a sensational year that saw PSG win the Division 1 Feminine. Edouard Mendy sealed the Men’s honour after helping Chelsea clinch the Champions League last season. And the awards didn’t stop there at Cobham.

Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes won The Best Women’s Coach for 2021, while Thomas Tuchel clinched the award for the Men’s team after becoming the first Blues boss to reach the final of the League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League.

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Elsewhere, Erik Lamela won the 2021 FIFA Puskas Award for his Rabona against Arsenal, while Alexia Putellas was named The Best Women’s Player for 2021.

With the prizes, accolades and eulogies coming in thick and fast in Switzerland, there were naturally a whole host of talking points, and we’ve tried our best to capture some of the reaction down below.


Bayern Munich teammate Thomas Muller wasted little time in living up to his reputation as ‘how the British would probably say’ an absolute lad, tweeting: “Soon you will have to expand your trophy room, @lewy_official. Congratulations on the title at #TheBest #lewyTheBest #Lewandowski #bravo #LewanGOALski.”

Some of the congratulatory tweets were, perhaps a tad more formal to Muller’s gem, including the man himself.

Tuchel and Hayes react

Tuchel, fresh from a day’s training with Chelsea ahead of Tuesday’s Premier League journey to Brighton, said he was surprised to receive the Best Men’s Coach award.

He said: “It was a pretty normal day so far at the training centre, I’ve just come from training because we have a game [on Tuesday], but now you opened the envelope and said my name, it’s pretty surreal.

“I’m overwhelmed, I feel a bit uncomfortable actually. I enjoy the journey and I enjoy the club, it’s a good fit. The company on the journey is so good, so I’m grateful to have such supportive people around me, to feel so good in such a competitive club.

“We’ve lost a bit of track to Manchester City in the [Premier] League, but in other competitions we follow our goals still. We try to be the best versions of ourselves and try to compete at the highest level. We’ll try our best to fulfil our dreams.”

Hayes was just as surprised to clinch the coveted Women’s award.

Commenting via video-link, she said: “I’m completely shocked. It’s down to the players and the fantastic people who represent my work. Ultimately, the coach is only as good as the people they have around them.

“I’ve got brilliant people at Chelsea that have helped to support the team to the place we’re at. Honestly, I’m absolutely shocked right now.”

FIFA FIFPro World11: Only three defenders?

In a top-heavy line-up, fans were fairly amused at FIFA’s hyper-attacking World11 that featured just three defenders, and a frontline consisting of Messi, Ronaldo, Lewandowski and Haaland.

Others were less amused as Salah was overlooked, while Antonio Rudiger, who produced heroics at the back as Chelsea lifted the Champions League, was nowhere to be seen…