Lionel Messi has been named the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Men’s World Player of the Year, but he was nowhere to be seen at the ceremony.
Messi was honored at the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) The Best FIFA Football Awards in London, England, on Saturday night. Messi, who was shortlisted alongside Manchester City forward Elling Holland and Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe, was selected as the winner by a vote of FIFA member national team captains and managers.
Messi left PSG last summer to join Inter Miami in the American Major League Soccer (MLS).
Upon his arrival, he brought the MLS League Cup to Miami, which was “last in the league for a decade,” and the team’s regular-season standings rose dramatically. Although the team was far from winning the league title, it was still a significant achievement to present the team with its first trophy just a month after joining.
With this win, Messi extends his record for most FIFA Men’s World Player of the Year honors to eight. It further widens the gap between him and second-place rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who has won the award five times.
However, Messi did not appear at the ceremony. The reason: training. Spanish soccer pundit Guillem Balague revealed the reason for Messi’s absence on social media after the award was announced. Balague is a well-known member of Messi’s inner circle, having written Messi: The Biography in 2013.
“Messi didn’t attend the ceremony because he was training with Inter Miami, and if he came to London (for the ceremony), he would have lost three-quarters of his training schedule,” Balague said.
“He has to adapt to his new football schedule. “He has to adapt to his new soccer schedule. He had some problems at the end of last season,” he said, adding, “He wants to have a proper pre-season to prepare his body for the first game this week.
In Messi’s absence, legendary French forward Thierry Henry accepted the award on his behalf.
Inter Miami will play a friendly against the El Salvador national team on Sept. 20. After that, the team will play fellow MLS club FC Dallas and Ronaldo’s Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal. The 2023 regular season begins in late February against Salt Lake City.
“Messi places a lot of importance on getting fit in the preseason, and I think his participation in the Copa America with Inter Miami and the Argentine national team played a part in (the importance of this preparation),” Balague said.
However, some have criticized Messi’s win as a popularity contest.
This is because FIFA only evaluated the winner from the end of last year’s World Cup in Qatar until last August.
It’s hard to understand how Messi, who hasn’t done much beyond winning the Ligue 1 title with PSG and the League Cup with Inter Miami, could win the award over Holland, who won City’s first ever treble (Champions League, League, and FA Cup).
FIFA did not respond directly to the controversy, but after Messi’s award, the organization said, “Messi helped PSG win their second consecutive French Ligue 1 title. He provided the most assists in Ligue 1 last season (16) and was named in the Ligue 1 season’s best 11.” “In March last year, he became the third player in the history of his country to score 100 goals, joining Ali Daei (Iran) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), when he scored in a friendly against Curacao,” FIFA detailed Messi’s achievements.
“After leaving PSG, he made an immediate impact on his debut for his new team, Inter Miami,” he added.