2016 was the best year of my career, says Ronaldo after bagging Fifa’s Best Player Award – PHOTOS
Cristiano Ronaldo claimed Fifa’s inaugural best player of the year award on Monday, the latest prize for the Real Madrid and Portugal star after a glittering 2016 for club and country.
Leicester City’s Claudio Ranieri received the best men’s coach award following his side’s fairytale Premier League triumph.
But the night again belonged to the 31-year-old Ronaldo, who edged out long-time nemesis Lionel Messi for the trophy as well as France’s Antoine Griezmann, the top player at this summer’s European championship.
Ronaldo had already won the Ballon d’Or after his third Champions League title, thanks in major part to his 16 goals in 12 games, as well as triumphing with Portugal at Euro 2016 – the country’s first major prize.
“2016 was the best year of my career,” Ronaldo said after being handed the prize from Fifa President Gianni Infantino. “It was a year that was magnificent at a personal level and at a sports level,” he added on the stage in Zurich.
Ranieri, 65, who saw off Real boss Zinedine Zidane and Portugal manager Fernando Santos, said the best coach honour was “incredible” after receiving the prize from Argentine football legend Diego Maradona.
Under Ranieri’s leadership, Leicester pulled off one of the greatest shocks in English football history by defying title odds of 5,000-1 to lift the Premier League trophy last season.
Having miraculously avoided relegation the previous season, the Foxes rode that wave of momentum all the way to the title.
The prizes were based on a combined voting process involving national team coaches and captains, a select group of journalists and fans.
Ronaldo took 34.5 per cent of the vote over 26.4 per cent to Messi, who skipped the awards show co-hosted by US actress and former “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria.
Barcelona said Messi was focused on preparing for an upcoming match against Athletic Bilbao.
US midfielder Carli Lloyd scooped the best women’s player of 2016, the two-time Olympic gold medallist adding to her 2015 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year accolade.
The American finished ahead of Brazilian star Marta and Germany’s Melanie Behringer. She described 2016 as “bittersweet”, with the US failing to win a medal for the first time in women’s Olympic football.
Fifa also gave a fair play prize to the Colombian side Atletico Nacional. The team had asked South America’s football governing body to award a regional club title to Chapecoense after most of the Brazilian side perished in a plane crash on the way to the first leg of the final.
World football’s governing body has launched the new award series after ending its six-year collaboration with France Football magazine for the Ballon d’Or.