How National Team Captains, Coaches Voted for FIFA Best Player Awards

Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated

Robert Lewandowski took home his second straight award, but one star competitor left him off the ballot completely.

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After winning his seventh Ballon d'Or in November, Lionel Messi made time in his acceptance speech to say Robert Lewandowski deserved his own Ballon d'Or. But apparently Messi didn't think the Bayern star deserved the FIFA Player of the Year award, leaving Lewandowski off his three-player ballot entirely.

In the end, it didn't matter. Lewandowski still won his second straight Best FIFA Men's Player award after outlasting Messi and Mohamed Salah in the voting, which is decided in four equal parts by fans, media representatives, and the captains and managers of national teams.

For The Best FIFA Women's Player, Barcelona's Alexia Putellas became the second woman after Megan Rapinoe to complete an award sweep after winning the Ballon d'Or Féminin late last year.

Within the voting are some fun intricacies, notable snubs and at least a little insight into how some of the most influential minds and players in the world view their peers. Here were some of the most notable takeaways from the voting (for full results FIFA has them listed here: Men's Player | Women's Player | Men's Coach | Women's Coach | Voting Totals )

Messi, Ronaldo Stay Petty

As Argentina captain, Messi voted for PSG teammates Neymar and Kylian Mbappé for the top two spots on his ballot, while putting Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema third. He has traditionally stayed away from voting for Cristiano Ronaldo on his ballot, only doing so in 2018 and 2019.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo, voting as Portugal captain, left Messi out of his top three, which also had Lewandowski listed as his top choice. Last season was the first and only time Ronaldo had included Messi in his voting, with the two individual rivals making a habit of snubbing each other.

As for the winner, Lewandowski, as Poland captain, voted for Euro 2020 and Champions League winner Jorginho first while putting Messi second and Ronaldo third.

Salah, the third-place finisher, voted as Egypt captain for Jorginho, Messi and Lewandowski.

While Messi more than doubled Lewandowski's points in the fan vote, the Bayern star was the overwhelming leader in coach, captain and media votes after a year in which he broke Gerd Müller's single-season Bundesliga goalscoring record.

All players who received first-place votes included: Lewandowski, Messi, Salah, Benzema, Mbappé, N'Golo Kanté, Ronaldo, Kevin De Bruyne, Jorginho, Neymar and Erling Haaland.

Barcelona Femení Left Wanting More

Despite having two finalists—and the winner—for The Best Women's Player, Barcelona Femení has reason to feel slighted. Manager Lluís Cortés finished behind Chelsea's Emma Hayes in The Best FIFA Women's Coach award despite winning the two domestic trophies and a UEFA Women's Champions League title—the latter of which came in a 4–0 rout of Hayes's Chelsea in the final. Hayes's domestic treble was enough for the voters—even she was surprised when the award was announced—and Chelsea completed the double on the coaching front with Thomas Tuchel winning The Best FIFA Men's Coach by an overwhelming margin over Italy's Roberto Mancini and Manchester City's Pep Guardiola.

Beyond that, no Barcelona Femení players were voted into the FIFPro World XI, which is voted on exclusively by players. U.S.'s Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan made the cut, while the three Best Player finalists—Putellas, Barcelona's Jenni Hermoso and Chelsea's Sam Kerr—were all omitted.

But at least Barcelona Femení's Irene Paredes, who voted as Spain captain, had her teammates' backs, voting Putellas and Hermoso in her top two spots, respectively. Spain women's coach Jorge Vilda Rodríguez did the same.

How U.S. Coaches, Players Voted

From the American contingent, U.S. women's national team coach Vlatko Andonovski voted Kerr, Vivianne Miedema and Putellas for Best FIFA Women's Player while USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn voted for Putellas, Chelsea and Sweden's Magdalena Eriksson and Kerr.

On the men's side, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter's ballot read Lewandowski, Jorghino, Benzema, while Tyler Adams, who voted as the USMNT captain, opted for Lewandowski, Jorghino and Messi.

Meanwhile, former U.S. assistant and interim coach Dave Sarachan, who is now Puerto Rico's manager, voted for Salah, Haaland and Benzema.

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