FIFA president Gianni Infantino is furious with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for their failure to attend this year’s The Best awards ceremony in London.
The game’s governing body welcomed many of the world’s biggest footballers to Royal Festival Hall last week, but the absence of Ronaldo and Messi was very much an elephant in the room.
The Juventus and Barcelona stars, who have shared the award equally over the last decade, cited schedule clashes but it is widely believed they chose not to show up after learning the main prize would go to Luka Modric.
However, that excuse may not fly in the future if Infantino gets his way. According to Spanish newspaper AS, the FIFA chief is instructing lawyers on ways they can legally obligate finalists to attend the event, essentially forcing them to come.
Ronaldo eventually finished second in a ten-man shortlist while Messi came a surprisingly low fifth with under ten per cent of the votes. Mohamed Salah of Liverpool (third) and PSG’s Kylian Mbappe (fourth) finished above the Argentine.
Not only did Ronaldo miss out on the main Men’s Player of the Year award but also the Puskas Award, given to the perceived best goal of the year. As it was fan voted, Salah’s strike against Everton won with over 30 per cent from a list of ten.
It is assumed that most of Salah’s votes came from a combination both Liverpool and Egypt fans.
Ronaldo, whose bicycle-kick goal against Juventus was up for the award, later said: ‘Salah deserved to win the Puskas award, it was a good goal. But let’s be honest, let’s not lie to ourselves, my goal was the best.’
FIFA have spent a lot of money promoting their newly formed ‘The Best’ awards since breaking a six-year tie with France Football’s prestigious and historic Ballon d’Or in 2016. It’s aim is to revive the FIFA World Player of the Year.
Infantino is acutely aware that Ronaldo and Messi are key figures in FIFA’s attempts to establish the awards and is determined to make sure they do not have to deal with the awkward situation again.
Their absence became all the more obvious when they were both selected in the Fifpro Team of the Year. A photo of the team features hosts Ronaldinho and Michael Ballack, who had to accept their trophies on their behalf.