For the second time in more than a decade, a different winner for the coveted honour of FIFA best men’s player emerged to beat familiar faces –Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to the award.
Bayern Munich’s top striker Robert Lewandowski claimed the prize this time around to become the second player after Luka Modric to receive the award in an era dominated by Messi and Ronaldo.
The Poland international made the most of the outgoing year with his German club, notching up 55 goals and 10 assist in 47 games across all competitions to help Bayern win five major titles last season.
However, what became an unusual scenario occurred after a document showing how everyone voted was released by FIFA.
For the first time Messi snubbed his arch-rival Ronaldo as the Portuguese was nowhere to be seen on the Argentine’s voting card.
The 33-year-old usually includes his long-term rival in his top-three but decided to snub Ronaldo this time as he picked friend and former Barcelona team mate, Neymar as first, while Kylian Mbappe and eventual winner Robert Lewandowski as second and third respectively.
Ronaldo, who left out Messi in last year’s voting, decided to go with the agreed consensus that Lewandowski was the best player this year while including Messi as second best. The 35-year-old also included Mbappe on his ballot.
However, the Real Madrid legend, who recently played against Messi in the Champions League clash that saw Juventus beat Barcelona 3 – 0 was full of praise for the Argentine who he insisted was never a rival in his eyes.
“I have always had a very good relationship with him,’ said Ronaldo.
“I shared 12, 13 or 14 years of award ceremonies with him. I never saw him as a rival. He always tries to do what is best for his team and me too. I always got along very well with him.
“But we know that in football, for the press, for the show, a rivalry is sought, but I have always gotten along well with him.”
Meanwhile, Tottenham’s Heung-min Son took home the Puskas award following his exceptional goal against Burnley in the Premier League last season.