By Victor Okoye
Cristiano Ronaldo won FIFA’s rebranded player of the year award on Monday, beating his old rival Lionel Messi.
Messi was pulled out of the ceremony only a few hours earlier by his club Barcelona.
The 31-year old Ronaldo was rewarded for a year in which he won the Champions League with his club Real Madrid and the Euro 2016 with Portugal.
Argentine Messi was second in the vote and Frenchman Antoine Griezmann third.
“I’m very happy and I can say that 2016 was the best year of my career”, said Ronaldo as he was presented the award by FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
Messi missed the ceremony along with all other Barcelona players who had been invited.
“With the aim of prioritising preparations for Wednesday’s game against Athletic Club, FC Barcelona have decided that the players recognised in the awards will not be travelling to Switzerland for the ceremony,” said the club in a statement.
Ronaldo also won the France Football’s Ballon d’Or, the other major international award for the sport, last month. He won the old FIFA award once in 2008 and also in 2013 and 2014 when it was organised jointly with France Football magazine.
Italian Claudio Ranieri won the Coach of the year award for leading outsiders Leicester City to the English Premier League title. Portugal coach, Fernando Santos and Real Madrid coach, Zinedine Zidane were finalists.
The FIFA Best Female Player Award went to World Cup winner and two-time Olympic winner Carli Lloyd, while the FFIFA Puskas Award went to Mohd Faiz Subri, forward, Penang in the 2016 Malaysia Super League.
The FIFA Best Women’s Coach Award went to Silvia Neid, who retired after leading Germany to a first Olympic title in Rio.
Radamel Falcao was honoured with FIFA award for outstanding career, while the FIFA fan Award went to Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund fans.
NAN recalls that the two fans captured the hearts of many while singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as one before last season’s Europa League quarter-final at a sell-out Anfield.