Best Fifa Football Awards 2019: Things you might have missed

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Lionel Messi, Jill Ellis, Jurgen Klopp and Megan Rapinoe
The Best Fifa Football Awards were full of sophistication, swankiness and the odd bit of tomfoolery

The Best Fifa Football Awards were full of sophistication, elegance and swankiness in Milan’s Teatro alla Scala.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp came up trumps in the best men’s player and best men’s coach categories.

United States forward Megan Rapinoe won the best women’s player, with her international boss Jill Ellis claiming the women’s coach award.

But there was plenty going on away from the actual handing out of the prizes, from the tactics of voting beforehand to a high-profile no-show and one or two remarkable outfits.

Ronaldo and Messi’s voting habits

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi has now been voted the world’s best player six times after wins in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015

With more than 400 managers, players and media representatives voting for the best men’s player (each selecting a first, second and third choice), Cristiano Ronaldo remarkably found common ground with Mauritania captain Abdoul Ba and his Eswatini counterpart Dlamini Banele.

How, you may ask? Well, they were the only three people to select Netherlands defender Matthijs de Ligt as their first pick for player of the year.

Was it a case of tactical voting from Ronaldo, who managed to exclude winner Lionel Messi from his top three? Or just a show of solidarity for his current Juventus team-mate?

In the 2018 voting Ronaldo also omitted his old rival Messi, instead favouring former Real Madrid colleague Raphael Varane.

Messi did include Ronaldo as his second pick behind Sadio Mane. The other main candidate for the men’s player award, Virgil van Dijk, went with Messi ahead of his Liverpool team-mates Mohamed Salah and Mane.

Where was Ronaldo?

Fifa Fifpro Men's Team of the Year
Fifa did not name Portugal captain Ronaldo in their team of the year when it was read out

Speaking of Ronaldo…

There was a strange moment when the Fifa Fifpro Men’s Team of the Year was announced.

Ten names were read out, in formation. Ten players – all present on the stage – lined up. And then the hosts moved on to the next prize.

The absentee? Ronaldo, whose name was not called out but whose inclusion was confirmed by Fifa’s official website.

So why was the Portugal captain not there? Juventus travel to Brescia on Tuesday, just 24 hours after the glitzy ceremony and manager Maurzio Sarri has suggested Ronaldo might not feature because of muscle fatigue.

Juve team-mate De Ligt did make the 60-mile journey to Milan, which is a neat stopping-off point given its location between Turin and Brescia.

Turin to Brescia
Milan sits in the middle of Turin and Brescia, where Juventus play in Serie A on Tuesday (20:00 BST)

Messi is also due to be in action on Tuesday, a home game for Barcelona against Villarreal. His 90-minute flight home to Spain would have taken longer then Ronaldo’s drive back to Turin.

Whatever the reason for his absence, Ronaldo was happy enough on Tuesday evening, posting this Instagram message just as the ceremony was reaching its conclusion.

“Patience and persistence are two characteristics that differentiate the professional from the amateur,” he wrote.

“Everything that is big today has started small. You can’t do everything, but do everything you can to make your dreams come true. And keep in mind that after night always comes dawn.”

Dirty Leeds – not any more

In a year when a member of manager Marcelo Bielsa’s staff was caught spying outside Derby County’s training ground, a fair play award for Leeds seemed distinctly unlikely.

But the Championship club and their 64-year-old manager – who called a news conference to explain his spying in meticulous detail – were rewarded following the Argentine’s intervention during their game against Aston Villa at the end of last season.

Mateusz Klich had scored for Leeds while Villa’s Jonathan Kodjia was down seeking medical attention, with Villa’s players stopping in the expectation the ball would be kicked out.

Bielsa ordered his players to allow Villa to equalise immediately.

The unlikely turn of events certainly surprised former England defender Micah Richards. “That’s got to be a joke!” he said on BBC Radio 5 Live.

 

Who did the home nations vote for?

England manager Gareth Southgate and his captain Harry Kane were almost at one with their selections. Both plumped for Messi, Ronaldo and Virgil Van Dijk, although the Tottenham forward Kane picked Van Dijk second.

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke went with Van Dijk, Kylian Mbappe and Sadio Mane, with his captain Andy Robertson selecting Liverpool team-mate Van Dijk ahead of Frenkie de Jong and Mane.

Wales boss Ryan Giggs went for Ronaldo, Messi and Van Dijk, while former captain Ashley Williams opted for Van Dijk, Eden Hazard and De Jong.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill picked Van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Messi, and captain Steven Davis went for Messi, Van Dijk and Mane.

Man City not at the party

While Manchester City became the first English club to win a domestic treble in 2018-19, they barely registered a mention at the awards ceremony.

They had eight players shortlisted for the Fifa Fifpro Men’s World11 but Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva were all overlooked.

So too was manager Pep Guardiola, who lost out in the best men’s coach category to Klopp.

Apparently recording the second-highest points tally in Premier League history – 98 – and winning three major trophies just isn’t quite enough.

A fitting end to Milan Fashion Week

Aside from ballet and laser light shows, there were also some remarkable outfits on display. Perfect timing given the ceremony took place on the final day of Milan Fashion Week…

Samuel Eto'o
Former Inter Milan and Barcelona forward Samuel Eto’o presented the best women’s goalkeeper award
Alex Morgan and Megan Anna Rapinoe
USA World Cup winners Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe stole the show with their elegant outfits
Marco Materazzi
Former Italy defender Marco Materazzi went with a velvet look

Italian footballer Andrea Pirlo sues look-alike man who impersonated him for two years just to get free clothes and jewellery.

The man, arrested by Turin police, is identified as 48 year-old former goldsmith Alessandro Palazzolo of Valenza, Daily Mail reports.

Investigations began when the former Juventus and AC Milan midfielder filed a lawsuit after repeatedly being asked to repay debts he had not accrued.

According to Gazzetto della Sport, police enquiries uncovered Palazzolo had deceived shopkeepers in Turin, Brescia, and Naples, asking for discounts and favours and working with an accomplice who would take expensive clothes and jewellery for free.

The publication also claimed that the man also tried to obtain ‘facilitated medical examinations’ by contacting the ex-footballers doctor.

Authorities in Turin recently apprehended the identity thief and his accomplice by tracing telephone calls and gaining testimonies from traders.

The man also tried to obtain ‘facilitated medical examinations’ by contacting the ex-footballer’s doctor.

For the real Andrea Pirlo, persistently approached by duped dealers who demanded payment for the goods, it was an unpleasant experience.

Andy Murray starts to believe he can beat Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal & Novak Djokovic again

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Andy Murray believes he is closer to beating Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic than he was “seven or eight” weeks ago, leaving him feeling “excited” about his future.

“I almost didn’t go to Antwerp, I had a problem with my elbow which I had in Shanghai and I left Sunday afternoon on the train there and I didn’t know if I was going to play.

“Obviously, I’m thankful I did and ended up getting the title. It was completely unexpected.”

Murray on his return to Australia

Andy Murray shows his emotions at the Australian Open
Murray gave an emotional news conference at this year’s Australian Open, where he said the tournament could be his last

After spending a few weeks at home in London following the arrival of his third child, Murray goes to Madrid on Wednesday to link up with the Great Britain squad for the inaugural Davis Cup week-long finals.

Then he will continue to build his fitness during the off-season before returning to the ATP Tour at the start of the 2020 season in Australia.

Murray has used a protected injury ranking to ensure his nation can play in the new ATP Cup, where he had been set to face Swiss great Federer in the group stage.

However, the 20-time Grand Slam champion pulled out of the tournament and Murray says it is “unfortunate” their meeting will not happen.

Murray hopes it will not be too long before he gets the chance to test himself against Federer, plus the other ‘big three’ players Djokovic and Nadal who are among the world’s top eight playing at the ATP Finals in London this week.

That could happen when he hopes to return to Melbourne, 12 months after Australian Open organisers played a farewell video following his first-round defeat by Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.

“I genuinely did feel there was more chance of that being the last time I played in Australia than the position I’m in now,” said Murray, who was speaking to the BBC at the launch of his new clothing range with sportswear brand Castore.

“I’m very lucky I get that chance again in January if I stay fit in the next couple of months and it’ll be fun to see what I can do.”

Murray on the arrival of his third child

Murray’s wife Kim gave birth to their third child at the end of October, a boy to join their two daughters, Sophia, who was born in 2016, and Edie, born in 2017.

“It’s been good so far, a bit hectic at times but for the most part it has been good. It has been nice to be at home for the last few weeks,” Murray said.

“Before our first daughter was born I wanted a boy and was convinced it was going to be a boy first time round and then we had two girls.

“I would have been more than happy with another girl as well, but it is nice and the kids have been excited to have a brother.”

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