Lionel Messi named Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo skips awards, Latest Football News - The New Paper

Lionel Messi named Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo skips awards

Lionel Messi won the Fifa Men's Player of the Year award, as beaten rival Cristiano Ronaldo stayed away from the star-studded ceremony in Milan's iconic La Scala Opera House yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Barcelona attacker Messi's victory was a surprise as he edged out Virgil van Dijk, who won the Uefa Player of the Year award last month after helping Liverpool to the Champions League title.

Juventus forward Ronaldo had also been shortlisted for the award, but did not attend the ceremony as he was named in Fifa's World Best XI along with Messi.

Both Messi, 32, and van Dijk, 28, are now in the running for the coveted Ballon d'Or which will be announced on Dec 2.

"I want to thank those who decided to give me this recognition," said Messi.

"The most important thing for me is the collective awards, but today is also a very special night for me."

It is the first time that Messi has won the Fifa Best Award, which was created in 2016. Ronaldo won for 2016 and 2017, with Croat Luka Modric beating both last year.

Messi was top scorer in the Champions League last season with 12 goals, before Barcelona were dumped out by Liverpool in the semi-finals.

The Argentine also won the European Golden Shoe after scoring 36 goals, the La Liga title with Barcelona and helped Argentina to bronze at the Copa America.

Van Dijk had been bidding to become the first defender to win a Fifa Player of the Year award since Italian Fabio Cannavaro won the 2006 World Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or.

The Dutchman also missed out on completing a treble for Liverpool, with Juergen Klopp winning the men's Coach of the Year and Alisson Becker bagging the goalkeeper's equivalent.

Klopp won his award ahead of two other English Premier League managers - Tottenham Hotspur's Mauricio Pochettino, whose team Liverpool beat in June's Champions League final, and Manchester City's Pep Guardiola.

"It is great, nobody expected this 20, 10, five, four years ago that I would be standing here," said the 52-year-old German, who joined Liverpool in 2015.

"I have to say thank you to my outstanding club Liverpool FC. Those who don't love it don't have a heart."

Megan Rapinoe beat fellow World Cup winner Alex Morgan and England's Lucy Bronze to the women's prize, with her US coach Jill Ellis lifting the women's coaching award.

Rapinoe, 34, was joint-top scorer with six goals at the Women's World Cup and won the Golden Boot. She also secured the Golden Ball for the best player. - AFP