Lionel Messi has been named the best player in the world for the sixth time in his career after claiming the Men’s Player gong at the FIFA Best Awards 2019.
The awards are based on performances from 16 July 2018 to 19 July 2019 and were voted for by fans, national coaches of FIFA Member Associations, their team captains as well as a select group of football journalists from those countries.
Messi beat Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo – who was not in attendance – to the most prestigious award, after previous successes in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.
The Barcelona star scored 51 goals in 50 appearances as he led his side to a La Liga title and the semi-finals of the Champions League.
He was unable to inspire the Catalans to victory over Liverpool in the European Cup, with the Reds claiming their sixth continental title under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp.
The German tactician was rewarded for his leadership on Monday night with the Men’s Coach award which he accepted, untypically, in a tuxedo.
Banging the heavy gong on the desk, Klopp apologised before saying: “It is great, nobody expected this 20, 10, five, four years ago that I would be standing here.
“We know what an incredible job you [Mauricio Pochettino] did and what Pep did. I have to say thank you to my outstanding club Liverpool FC.
“To the owners thank you, they gave me an incredible team. I have to thank my team – as a coach you can only be as good as your team is. I’m really proud of being manager of such an incredible bunch of players.”
Megan Rapinoe rounded off the night with a powerful sermon on social issues in football after winning the Women’s Player award.
Following on from FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who called for the end of racism in the game, the USA star said: “Some of the stories that inspired me this year are Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly.
“Their incredible performances on the field and their reaction to the disgusting racism they have to take.
“If we really want to have meaningful change, if everyone other than Sterling or Koulibaly was outraged, if everyone was outraged by the homophobia… We have such an incredible opportunity being professional footballers, so much success, an incredible platform.
“I ask everyone here, lend your platform to other people, share your success. We have a unique opportunity to use this game to actually change the world for better.
“I hope you take that to heart, do something, we have incredible power in this room.”
Rapinoe’s national team coach Jill Ellis won the Women’s Coach award, while Liverpool’s Alisson Becker and Dutchwoman Sari van Veenendaal won the respective goalkeeper prizes.
The Puskas Award went to Hungarian teenager Daniel Zsori who scored a tremendous overhead kick on his league debut, as Leeds United incredibly won the Fair Play award for giving Aston Villa a goal during their controversial Championship fixture in April.
The Fan Award went to Silvia Grecco, who commentates on Palmeiras matches for her blind son, and the Men’s and Women’s World XIs were also announced.
Men’s World XI: Alisson; Ramos, De Ligt, Van Dijk, Marcelo, Modric; Mbappe, Messi, Hazard; Ronaldo.
Women’s World XI: Van Veenendaal; Bronze, Renard, Fischer, O’Hara; Henry, Ertz; Martens, Lavelle, Rapinoe; Morgan.