Cristiano Ronaldo and Lieke Martens were named Fifa men’s and women’s player of the year respectively at the governing body’s annual ‘The Best’ football awards, which took place in London on Monday night.
The Real Madrid forward retained the title he won in 2016 – again finishing ahead of Lionel Messi in a vote between national team players, coaches, media and fans – meaning that he has now been named Fifa’s top male footballer five times. He took 43.16% of the total vote, reflecting a year in which he won a Champions League and La Liga double with Real Madrid, continuing to put top-class opponents to the sword with astounding regularity. His two goals against Juventus in Cardiff helped Real achieve continental supremacy for the 12th time and he had already scored a hat-trick against Atlético Madrid in the semi-finals.
Asked how long he could keep up this level of form, Ronaldo said: “I don’t know, I just enjoy the moment, the moment is great. I feel happy, I’m 32 and have won best player in the world and I’m so glad. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next year. I just try to focus on the moment.”
Ronaldo acknowledged the competition provided by Messi and Neymar, who finished third in the men’s rankings, although the published voting results revealed that neither he nor Messi had deemed one another the best player of the past year.
Martens, who scored three goals in Holland’s triumphant Euro 2017 campaign and won the tournament’s golden ball award, was unable to attend due to Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Norway but received her trophy from Marco van Basten while preparing with the national team. The women’s award was accompanied by some controversy, the inclusion of the little-known Venezuelan forward Deyna Castellanos causing the USA midfielder Meghan Rapinoe to criticise the shortlisting process. Rapinoe said it suggested “that Fifa doesn’t really care” and the 18-year-old Castellanos, who finished third in the final vote behind Martens and Carli Lloyd, admitted the comments had disappointed her.
“It was not nice but I’m fine with that,” she said. “Everyone has their opinion. If she thinks that then I’m so grateful to Fifa because they’re looking for young talent. I’m so happy to be here and she’s one of my role models.”
Ronaldo and Martens both saw their coaches win awards, Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane taking the men’s prize and the Holland manager, Sarina Wiegman, earning the women’s equivalent. Olivier Giroud’s scorpion-style finish against Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day won the Puskas Award for the best goal, while Gianluigi Buffon was named best goalkeeper. Celtic were given the fan award while the former Slovacko striker Francis Koné received the fair play trophy.
The ceremony was held at the London Palladium and took a suitably local theme. The Hackney-born actor Idris Elba compered while Sadiq Khan, the mayor, briefly addressed the audience before the start. Fifa’s 12-monthly gala has taken on this incarnation since last year; from 2010 until 2015 it was known as the Fifa Ballon d’Or and organised in tandem with France Football, but that arrangement subsequently ended.
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