ZURICH, (Reuters) – Cristiano Ronaldo won FIFA’s player of the year award for the fourth time yesterday, beating his old rival Lionel Messi who was pulled out of the ceremony only a few hours earlier by his club Barcelona.
Italian Claudio Ranieri won the coach of the year award for leading rank outsiders Leicester City to the English Premier League title.
Ronaldo was rewarded for his performance in 2016 when he won the Champions League with his club Real Madrid and then Euro 2016 with Portugal. Five-times winner and four-times runner-up Messi was second and Frenchman Antoine Griezmann third.
Barcelona said that tomorrow’s game against Athletic Bilbao would take priority over the ceremony and that none of their invited players would travel, which disappointed Ronaldo.
“I would like Messi to have been here today but they have an important game on Wednesday and we can understand that,” he said after accepting the award from FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
“I don’t have much more to say, I think the awards speak for themselves,” he added. “I’m very happy and I can say that 2016 was the best year of my career, the trophy shows that people aren’t blind and watch the games.”
FIFA, which organised the award jointly with France Football magazine from 2010 to 2015 when it was named the Ballon d’Or, rebranded it as “The Best” this year after splitting with the French publication.
France Football continued with its own award which was also won by Ronaldo last month.
The ceremony, previously held at the Kongresshaus theatre in central Zurich, this year took place in the much more modest setting of a television studio on an industrial estate near the airport.
Ronaldo previously won in 2008, 2013, 2014 with Messi second on each occasion. Messi won from 2009-12 and then again in 2015 with Ronaldo second on every occasion except in 2010 when Andres Iniesta was runner-up.
Ranieri said he was “crazy” after winning the coach’s award ahead of Fernando Santos, who led Portugal to the Euro 2016 title.
“I am crazy now,” he said. “What happened last season in England was something strange. The football gods said Leicester must win.”
Colombian side Atletico Nacional were given the Fair Play Award for conceding to Copa Sudamericana title to Brazilian side Chapecoense, whose team was decimated when a plane taking to the final crashed, killing 71 people.
“We did nothing more than what we had to do….handing them this trophy as a gesture of hope,” said club president Juan Carlos de La Cuesta.
American Carli Lloyd won the women’s player of the year award for the second year in a row.
Mohd Faiz Subri, of Malaysian Super League side Penang, won the goal of the year award for a 35-metre free kick in which the ball dipped and swung in a bewildering fashion to leave the goalkeeper stranded.