Lionel Messi was crowned as the best men’s player for 2023, while Aitana Bonmati added to her collection of individual accolades by winning the women’s award at FIFA’s award ceremony in London.
Messi retained the award on Monday night by beating Manchester City’s treble-winning Norwegian striker Erling Haaland in a tie-break as France’s Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe finished third.
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The 36-year-old was a surprise victor ahead of Haaland as the award covered only the period after Messi had led Argentina to World Cup glory in December 2022 to August 2023.
During that time the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner had a subdued end to his career at Paris Saint-Germain, despite winning the Ligue 1 title, before joining MLS side Inter Miami in June.
While Messi quickly made his mark in the United States as he helped the franchise to their first trophy by winning the Leagues Cup in August, Haaland was the favourite to win after scoring 52 goals in his debut season with City as the English side won a treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup.
After receiving the same number of points (48) from a scoring system based on votes from national team captains, coaches, journalists and fans, Messi was crowned victor thanks to more first-choice nominations.
However, all three of the men’s finalists did not attend the ceremony leaving Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry, who was co-hosting the event, to pick up the award in Messi’s absence.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) January 15, 2024
Bonmati’s ‘exceptional and unique year’
But World Cup champion Bonmati showed up – and cleaned up. The 25-year-old Spain playmaker added to her Ballon d’Or award last October, which followed a UEFA award in August and the Golden Boot award at the World Cup.
It was after she led Spain to World Cup glory and Barcelona to the Champions League title. She was named player of the tournament for both competitions.
Bonmati edged out Spain teammate Jenni Hermoso and Colombia star Linda Caicedo.
“A couple of weeks ago when 2023 came to an end, I was nostalgic because 2023 was an exceptional and unique year I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Bonmati.
“I’m proud of being part of a powerful generation of women who are changing the rules of the game and the world.”
Pep Guardiola was named best coach after masterminding City’s first-ever Champions League success.
“We’re here because we won a lot and the thousands of people involved in our success,” said Guardiola.
“I’m really happy for the season we had because it was an incredible journey. In the end, we did it, but the pleasure of being there was incredible.”
Haaland was joined by five of his club teammates – Kyle Walker, John Stones, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne – in the team of the year.
Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois, Jude Bellingham and Vinicius Junior, Messi and Mbappe made up the 11.
City’s Ederson won men’s goalkeeper of the year, while England and Manchester United stopper Mary Earps picked up the women’s award.
England national team boss Sarina Wiegman won the women’s coach of the year after leading the Lionesses to the World Cup final.
Seven of England’s women were included in the team of the year: Earps, Lucy Bronze, Alex Greenwood, Keira Walsh, Alessia Russo, Lauren James and Ella Toone.
Olga Carmona, who scored the winning goal in the World Cup final, was the only other Spaniard included alongside Bonmati with American star Alex Morgan and Australia’s Sam Kerr also selected.
The Brazilian men’s team won the fair play award after they donned an all-black shirt for the first time in a show of support for forward Vinicius, who suffered several incidents of racist abuse while playing for Madrid last year.
There was also Brazilian success in the Puskas award for the best goal, scored by Botafogo’s Guilherme Madruga for his spectacular overhead kick.