Monday evening at the London Hammersmith Apollo, turned into another great night for Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, as despite now having taken the decision to move to Inter Miami and the United States MLS division, 2023 saw him complete a two decade professional career in Europe as he closed his time down with a two year spell with French giants Paris Saint-Germain.
Let us be honest, the 36 year old World Cup, serial La Liga and Champions League winner really needs no introduction, and it is probably not that surprising that FIFA have again honoured him given how 2023 as a calendar year played out for him.
Whilst Messi took the Player of the Year, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola took Manager of the Year given their Treble achievement of Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup in 2023.
City’s Ederson beat Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois and Al Hilal’s Yassine Bounou to the Goalkeeper of the Year award, but the main headline obviously remains Messi, who pushed City striker Erling Haaland into second place and Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe into third. However, it was probably a far tighter vote than many in the wider world of football would have thought it would be to begin with.
It is, of course, his third FIFA Best Awards win in the Player of the Year category, since this particular format was incepted back in 2016 as an alternative to the Ballon d’Or, and his previous wins came in 2019 and 2022.
Voting comes from a mix of national team managers and captains, journalists and fans on FIFA’s website and each group stands for 25% of the vote. Messi was actually tied on points with Norwegian international hotshot Haaland, but he ended up with the award this year as more national team captains had nominated him as their first choice vote.
Captains included, Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappe, Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson, Aaron Ramsey and Luka Modric. Somewhat ironically, Ilkay Gundogan and Casemiro voted for Haaland – as did Messi himself recognising the 23 year old’s talent, goalscoring prowess and the impact he has had on the game despite his tender and youthful age.
Despite the individual awards handed out, the Team of the Year is usually interesting and for 2023 it was:
Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), John Stones, Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva (all Manchester City), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland (both Manchester City), Kylian Mbappe (Paris St-Germain), Lionel Messi (Inter Miami) and Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid).
As ever, the awards will be contentious amongst fans themselves and most are already understandably arguing that Haaland should have been this year’s winner, but what is football without a bit of bias and some politics eh.