Messi wins Fifa’s best men’s player award
LONDON, England (AP) — Lionel Messi took his talents to Miami, and the awards followed.
Messi has been named FIFA’s best men’s player after moving from Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) to Inter Miami and leading the David Beckham-owned team to a little-known Leagues Cup title — all while single-handedly elevating football’s relevance in the United States.
The 36-year-old Argentina star was selected on Monday over Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland — the same pair he beat for his eighth Ballon d’Or award last October.
Messi was not in attendance at Hammersmith Apollo theater in west London.
Moments later, World Cup champion Aitana Bonmatí made it a clean sweep of awards. The 25-year-old Spain playmaker was named FIFA’s best women’s football player, building on her Ballon d’Or award last October, which followed a UEFA award in August.
And that was after she led Spain to World Cup glory and Barcelona to the Champions League title. She was named player of the tournament for both competitions.
Bonmatí won over Spain teammate Jenni Hermoso and Colombia star Linda Caicedo.
“It’s been an exceptional and unique year that I’ll remember all my life,” Bonmatí said in translated comments. “I owe this to the teams that I’ve played with. Without all of you, I wouldn’t be here.”
“The Best” awards represent FIFA’s version of the older and more prestigious Ballon d’Or prize. Winners are determined through voting by a global panel of national team coaches and captains, selected journalists, plus fans online.
The women’s eligibility period covered performances from August 1, 2022 through the World Cup final last August.
Spain’s women won their first World Cup by beating England 1-0 in the final in Sydney, Australia.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was named best men’s coach, and England coach Sarina Wiegman took the women’s prize. Guardiola led City to a treble of titles: Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup.
Messi secured the FIFA award for the eighth time in 15 years. He had won it last year, too, after leading Argentina to the 2022 World Cup title.
The men’s award did not consider the World Cup, which ended 13 months ago. It recognised achievements from after the tournament through August 20.
Messi and Mbappé helped PSG win the French league title, but the team underperformed in the Champions League and French Cup — exiting both competitions in the round of 16.
That means Messi’s exploits in the United States surely swayed some voters.
In rejecting Saudi Arabia for Major League Soccer (MLS), Messi brought star power to a league that fights for relevance in an American sports landscape dominated by the NFL and NBA.
LeBron James, Serena Williams and Kim Kardashian were all on hand in Fort Lauderdale for Messi’s debut on July 21, when the forward scored from a free kick goal in stoppage time to beat Cruz Azul 2-1.
The goals kept coming — 10 in seven games to lead the MLS club to its first-ever trophy by winning the Leagues Cup final on August 19, one day before FIFA award eligibility period ended.
Haaland and Mbappé could make good arguments that they deserved to win.
Haaland scored 28 goals in 36 games in all club competitions from after the World Cup through the end of the 2022-23 season as a driving force in Manchester City winning the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup. The 6-foot-4 striker then scored three goals in two appearances for Norway in June.
Mbappe scored at nearly a goal-per-game clip in the period of eligibility for PSG, and then for France in European Championship qualifying in March and June.
Messi’s figures in France after the World Cup were good but unspectacular: nine goals and six assists in 22 games across all competitions.