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
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?
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.
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.
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