PARIS (AP) — World Cup champion Lionel Messi edged Kylian Mbappé again, this time to take FIFA’s best men’s player award on Monday.
The best women’s player was Spain’s Alexia Putellas for a second straight year.
After steering Argentina to World Cup glory in an epic final against Mbappé’s France last year in Qatar, Messi won the best player vote against Mbappé and Karim Benzema and secured the FIFA prize for the seventh time in 14 years.
He won the World Cup at his record-equaling fifth attempt.
“It was a crazy year for me,” Messi said. “I could fulfil my (World Cup) dream after fighting for it for so long. And in the end it happened, and it was the most beautiful thing of my career. It’s the dream of every player, but very few can achieve it, so I’m thankful to God for being able to do it.”
The three players made the final shortlist in voting by a global panel of national team captains and coaches, selected journalists in each of FIFA’s 211 member countries, plus fans online.
The 35-year-old Messi also beat Mbappé — who was seeking his first best player award from FIFA — to the Golden Ball trophy awarded by FIFA for the World Cup’s best player. Mbappé earned the Golden Boot as top scorer.
In the FIFA Awards vote, Messi had 52 points, Mbappé 44, and Benzema 34.
Mbappé, 11 years younger than Messi at 24 and considered Messi’s heir apparent on the world stage, made the three-man shortlist for the first time. He was fourth in voting for the 2018 award, the year he led France to the World Cup title.
Real Madrid star Benzema won the more prestigious Ballon d’Or in October ahead of the World Cup. The France forward missed the tournament because of injury. Messi was not on the long list of Ballon d’Or candidates announced in August.
Robert Lewandowski won the FIFA award the last two years, and Cristiano Ronaldo was left off the 14-player shortlist for the award this year for the first time.
Messi broke a record he shared with Ronaldo by making the men’s world best XI for the 16th time. The team included Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois, Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi, Portugal’s João Cancelo, Dutchman Virgil van Dijk, Belgium’s Kevin de Bruyne, Croatia’s Luka Modric, Brazil’s Casemiro, Norway’s Erling Haaland and France’s Mbappé and Benzema.
Earlier Monday, French prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation into a rape accusation against Hakimi, a defender at Paris Saint-Germain.
Messi voted for former Barcelona teammate Neymar as his choice for best player. Only Brazil captain Thiago Silva also voted on Neymar.
Russia’s coach and captain were not banned from voting in the award.
Putellas won her award from Alex Morgan of the United States and Beth Mead, who led England to the European Championship title in 2022.
Barcelona playmaker Putellas made the top three again despite being injured days before the Euro and missing the tournament. She scored 34 goals across all competitions last season.
Mead was the joint top scorer at the Euro, and was named the tournament’s best player. She sustained a serious knee injury in November while playing for Arsenal and could miss the Women’s World Cup in July in Australia and New Zealand.
Morgan, who was second in the 2019 vote to teammate Megan Rapinoe, was player of the tournament when the U.S. won the CONCACAF W Championship last year. She was also the joint top scorer.
Earlier, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni was voted FIFA men’s coach of the year after leading his team to the World Cup title in December.
The women’s coach award went to Sarina Wiegman, who led the England to the title at the Women’s European Championship.
Scaloni took over Argentina at the end of 2018 on an interim basis, and was widely criticized for lacking experience as he had never coached a professional team. Earlier Monday, his contract as the national team coach was extended to the end of the 2026 World Cup.
The other coaches on the shortlist were Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti and Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola.
The women’s goalkeeper award was given to Euro winner Mary Earps of England, and the best men’s goalkeeper was Argentina’s World Cup winner Emiliano Martínez.
The event in Paris was marked by tributes to Pelé, who died late last year at age 82 following a battle with colon cancer. Pelé’s wife, Marcia Aoki, received a trophy honoring the soccer great from the hands of former Brazil striker Ronaldo.
“I have three words to say to God, who gave us Edson; to Edson, who gave us Pelé; and to the world, who received them so well: Grateful, grateful and grateful,” she said.
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