Lionel Messi got a slap from Kylian Mbappé and a smile from his wife. Then he walked onto the Fifa stage and received the silver trophy. A good two months after the World Cup victory, Argentina’s superstar was named FIFA’s best footballer of the year 2022. The 35-year-old offensive dribbler from Paris Saint-Germain prevailed in the final of the world association’s The Best Gala against his French club colleague Mbappé and his compatriot Karim Benzema. “It’s a special award and a great honor,” said Messi, sending a greeting to his three children.
It was Messi’s seventh FIFA World Player award since 2009 – possibly the last of his extraordinary career. Together with his wife Antonella Roccuzzo, he walked the green carpet, posed in a friendly manner for the photographers, silver stones glittered on the lapel of his suit on a thoroughly Argentinian evening in Paris – even the fans of the Albiceleste received a prize as the best supporter.
The ceremony did not go without an affront: the superstars of Real Madrid, including Benzema and the German national player Antonio Rüdiger, stayed away from the ceremony. According to Spanish media reports, in protest against the award and the non-consideration of their young star Vinicius Junior on the 26-player shortlist for the world eleven. Officially, it was said that they wanted to prepare for the cup game against FC Barcelona on Thursday.
On Monday evening, as is usual with honors in recent years, a directional dispute raged on social media. Was Messi’s outstanding World Cup tournament the right evaluation criterion? Or should the consistently good year of Real striker Karim Benzema, who missed the World Cup injured, have been the yardstick? The camps argued irreconcilably. However, the verdict of the vote by fans, journalists, coaches and captains of the national teams of all Fifa countries put Messi back on the throne after the World Cup victory in Qatar.
The World Cup was also the mood barometer in the other important men’s price categories. The best goalkeeper was Argentina’s final hero Emiliano Martinez and not Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois. For coaching, Albiceleste boss Lionel Scaloni prevailed over Real’s Carlo Ancelotti and Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola. This also ended the German series: Jürgen Klopp (2019 and 2020) and Thomas Tuchel (2021) had been honored for their successes with Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC in recent years. 2022 was a dreadful year for German men’s football with Qatar as the low point. After all, Rüdiger had been nominated for the world eleven.
There was no discussion among the women. Spain’s Alexia Putellas from FC Barcelona won again despite missing the European Championship in the summer due to a cruciate ligament rupture. The German European Championship finalists were absent from the individual awards ceremony on stage, with the exception of Ann-Kathrin Berger from Chelsea FC, who had to give way to English European champion Mary Earps in the category of best goalkeeper. After all, Lena Oberdorf was appointed to the world eleven.
The show started emotionally. Pelé was posthumously awarded an honorary prize. The Brazilian football icon died at the end of last year at the age of 82. At the beginning of the Fifa gala to honor the best footballers of 2022 on Monday evening in Paris, Pelé’s widow accepted a silver trophy from ex-world champion Ronaldo. “Pelé is immortal,” said world association president Gianni Infantino. Former world footballer Ronaldo and Pelé’s former teammate Jairzinho paid tribute to the three-time world champion. A video – accompanied by statements by Pelé – showed important milestones in the exceptional footballer’s unique career.