Lionel Messi won his first Fifa The Best Men’s Player award on Monday, finishing ahead of Virgil van Dijk and eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 32-year-old Argentina international enjoyed a spectacularly productive 2018/19 season which ultimately helped him lift the coveted prize.
He notched up 46 points in the voting process, just eight more than Van Dijk, with Ronaldo a further two behind. Unlike the Ballon d’Or, this accolade is voted for by every international captain and manager plus a member of their nation’s media.
So, it’s always fascinating to see who voted for who – especially as the aforementioned three are eligible to cast a nomination – given we almost certainly get a rogue vote and in some cases tactical.
As touched upon on these pages before, Sadio Mané is no longer just a supporting act with Liverpool, he’s very much the show these days. Last season, the Senegalese forward grabbed the baton and on most occasions was their go-to guy when that role previously belonged to Mohamed Salah – who still remains a force – and to a lesser extent Roberto Firmino, again still brilliant for the Reds.
He finished fifth in the final vote on 26 points, three behind Salah, but two of the game’s biggest names felt he was ‘the best’. Of the eight captains to give him the nod, including international team-mate Cheikhou Kouyaté, one was Real Madrid’s latest galactico Eden Hazard, while none other than Messi pushed for Mane to win the award. If that’s not a seal of approval then what is?
Since turning promise into consistent brilliance a decade ago, Messi has been universally lauded as his generation’s most exceptional footballer.
No one, with the exception of Ronaldo, could keep up with the diminutive Rosario-born forward and seeing him win out shouldn’t have come as a surprise – even though it did, which goes to show that we could very well be starting to take him for granted.
Lionel Messi = Sadio Mané
Virgil van Dijk = Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo = Matthijs de Ligt
Sergio Ramos = Eden Hazard
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) September 23, 2019
For many of his peers, that is not the case. Hugo Lloris (France), his Spurs team-mate Harry Kane (England) and Messi’s biggest rival for this year’s prize Virgil van Dijk (the Netherlands) all chose Messi as their number one pick.
Riyad Mahrez (Algeria), Eden Dzeko (Bosnia), former Barça colleague Dani Alves (Brazil), Gary Medel (Chile), Simon Kjaer (Denmark), Semaus Coleman (Republic of Ireland), Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) and Diego Godin (Uruguay) all concurred.
Seeing captains voting for their clubmates or international teammates is nothing new. Van Dijk, whom Manuel Neuer (Germany) nominated as his first choice, selected Salah and Mane to round off his top three. Sergio Ramos (Spain), meanwhile, selected Los Blancos’ new boy Eden Hazard and his predecessor Ronaldo.
Speaking of the Portuguese forward, Ronaldo was greatly impressed by Dutch centre-back and Juventus pal Matthijs de Ligt, enough to be his first pick with Frenkie de Jong behind his compatriot. Giorgio Chiellini (Italy) kept that Old Lady love-in by going for Ronaldo, who also counted on Luka Modric (Croatia).