For the last decade either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo have been crowned the best player on the planet, winning the coveted award five times each and finish second on the other five occasions.
On Monday in London, FIFA’s TheBest award went to Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric at the glitzy award evening in London, with Ronaldo finishing second and Mohamed Salah third. Messi wasn’t even nominated among the top three despite an incredible last 12 months, and that was one of several bizarre decisions as votes were counted by national team coaches, captains and selected journalists and officials from around the world.
Neither Messi nor Ronaldo were present to applaud Modric, as they both decided not to attend the event with Messi citing “personal reasons” on the morning of the event and he remained in Spain ahead of Barcelona’s trip to Leganes on Wednesday. While Ronaldo pulled out due to Juventus’ busy schedule as they have a Serie A game on Wednesday.
Ronaldo knew it was unlikely he would win the award after Modric was handed the best player award by UEFA and won the Golden Ball as the best player at the World Cup this summer, while Messi’s goal was in the running for the Puskas award but lost out to Mo Salah’s striker against Everton.
At many of the previous events it has been too close to call between Messi and Ronaldo as to who will win the best player on the planet. But this was the first time in a decade the award was destined to go elsewhere.
But should they have shown up on Monday?
Both Messi and Ronaldo were included in the FIFPro World 11 and the other nine players included in that team turned up. Granted, it was easier for the three Premier League players (Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kante and David De Gea) to make it, but four Real Madrid players still showed up, plus Kylian Mbappe and Dani Alves from elsewhere in Europe. Real Madrid play on Wednesday, so too do PSG and Chelsea and Man United, but their players turned up.
Can we really criticize Messi and Ronaldo for not showing up in London?
Both players have given us so much joy over the years and this is only one awards ceremony (and a slightly confusing and long-winded one at that), but what does their inability to show up when they haven’t won the main award suggest?
Are they simply so trophy orientated that they can’t bear the thought of being in a room full of the greatest players and coaches on the planet and not winning the top prize? Or did scheduling issues really stop them from turning up?
It could be as simple as the latter but it leaves a slightly sour taste in the mouth to think that Messi and/or Ronaldo believe they don’t have time to waste to attend an awards ceremony celebrating not only their greatness but that of others, when they don’t have a chance of winning the main award.