Lewandowski wins FIFA best player vote ahead of Messi, Salah

PTI, Jan 18, 2022, 9:33 AM IST

Zurich: Robert Lewandowski was voted the best men’s player in the world, retaining the FIFA award he won last year despite being left off the ballot paper filed by runner-up Lionel Messi.

The Bayern Munich forward on Monday overturned the result last month of the Ballon d’Or prize where he placed second behind Messi, who finally led Argentina to a senior title at the 2021 Copa América. Mohamed Salah of Liverpool placed third.

”I am very honoured to win this trophy,” Lewandowski said on a video link from Munich. The trophy was presented by club officials during the online ceremony hosted at FIFA headquarters in Zurich on Monday.

Lewandowski was the overwhelming choice of national team captains and coaches plus selected media in more than 200 countries, yet was almost caught by Messi, who got more than double the number of votes from fans worldwide than the Poland captain.

All three candidates voted as captains of their national teams, and Lewandowski ranked Messi second of his three choices. Salah had Lewandowski and Messi in his top three.

Messi did not pick either of his closest rivals in the voting. His top two choices were Neymar and Kylian Mappé, now his teammates since joining Paris Saint-Germain in August.

Lewandowski broke two Bundesliga records by scoring 41 goals for Bayern in its title-winning 2020-21 season and 43 in the calendar year of 2021. Both marks were held since 1972 by another Bayern great, Gerd Müller. ”If you ask me that a few years ago if it was possible, I would have told you, no, it’s impossible to score so many goals in the Bundesliga,” said Lewandowski, who has scored four more in two games this year.

In the women’s award, Alexia Putellas added the FIFA trophy to her Ballon d’Or victory. Putellas captained Barcelona to its first Women’s Champions League title and teammate Jennifer Hermoso placed third in the FIFA vote. The runner-up was Sam Kerr of beaten finalist Chelsea.

Chelsea swept the coaching awards in a year when its men’s and women’s teams led by Thomas Tuchel and Emma Hayes reached their Champions League finals.

Tuchel again finished ahead of Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola to repeat the result of their European title game. Guardiola placed third having led City to the English Premier League title, and into a runaway lead this season after beating Chelsea on Saturday.

Roberto Mancini was second in the FIFA voting after leading Italy to win the European Championship.

Hayes seemed surprised to win the coaching award for women’s soccer ahead of Lluis Cortes. His Barcelona team beat Chelsea 4-0 in the Champions League final. Sarina Wiegman, who moved from 2017 European champion Netherlands to take over at England, was third.

On an evening of surprises and quirky choices, a global vote of players to choose their World XI lineups were curious.

None of the three candidates for the women’s individual prize was voted on to the best women’s team, which also lacked any players from Barcelona.

Salah was also missing from the men’s team lineup which had an unusual 3-3-4 formation that allowed a forward line of Messi, Lewandowski, Erling Haaland and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo was also the star guest with FIFA in Zurich. The Portugal star appeared in person to close the show and collect a special award for breaking the all-time scoring record in men’s national team soccer. A long-established tradition at FIFA awards was extended for another year. Six-time winner Messi and five-time winner Ronaldo both ignored each other on the ballots they submitted. Ronaldo did vote for Lewandowski as his No. 1.

The record scorer in women’s national teams, Christine Sinclair of Olympic champion Canada, also got a special award from FIFA earlier in the show.

Two awards went to Denmark for the reaction in the stadium to national team star Christian Eriksen collapsing due to cardiac arrest at a European Championship game in Copenhagen.

FIFA’s fair play prize went to the Denmark players and medical staff who protected and treated Eriksen. The award for best fans was shared by Denmark and Finland whose supporters chanted Eriksen’s name as he was treated on the field before it was clear he would recover.

The Puskas Award for best goal went to Érik Lamela for the rabona flick he scored for Tottenham against Arsenal in the Premier League in March.

The best goalkeeper prizes were won by Edouard Mendy of Chelsea and Chile’s Christiane Endler, who moved from PSG to Lyon in the offseason.

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