Lionel Messi wins Fifa’s The Best after World Cup triumph as Alexia Putellas retains women’s award

England Women manager Sarina Wiegman took the top prize as Best coach, while Lionesses goalkeeper Mary Earps was also honoured

Karl Matchett
Tuesday 28 February 2023 08:42 GMT
(AFP via Getty Images)

Lionel Messi has been crowned The Best player in men’s football, winning Fifa’s flagship award as the game’s top star after leading his Argentina national team to the World Cup in December.

This marks the second time he has won the award since Fifa started their separate ceremony in 2016, following his triumph three years ago - while last year he was edged out into second place by Robert Lewandowski.

For his heroics in Qatar though he beat two men to the prize whose nation also finished runner-up at that tournament, French forwards Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe.

Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas - widely regarded as the top female player but sidelined since summer with an ACL injury - beat challengers including England’s Beth Mead and US star Alex Morgan to retain the title she won a year ago as the women’s Best player.

The first award handed out on the night did go to an English athlete, however, as the national team and Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps was recognised as the top stopper in the women’s game.

That wasn’t the only success related to the Lionesses either, as boss Sarina Wiegman was honoured as The Best coach - an award also won by Lionel Scaloni in the men’s game, who guided Argentina to their first World Cup triumph since 1986. The Albiceleste had a triple celebration on the night, with Emi Martinez winning the men’s goalkeeper award.

Wiegman, though, made waves with an emotional speech highlighting the progress of women’s football and insisting much more can and must be done.

“It’s incredible to be here right now and celebrate women’s football. The dangers, we have to take care of too,” she said. “Yes we want to develop but we need to do the right things. We’re competing on the pitch but off it we have to work as a team to grow it more.

“The Euros were incredible. The stadiums were full, Wembley was full and there were so many families in the stadiums and they were all celebrating football. As the English say, we brought it home,” Wiegman said.

“From when I could walk, I loved football and over the years I’ve seen how the women’s game has gown and developed.

“It’s incredible to be here right now and celebrate women’s football in the world. We have heroes in this room, little girls have their idols. They have inspirations.”

Hristo Stoichkov presents Sarina Wiegman with her award (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the Puskas Award was given to Marcin Oleksy for the best goal of the year, beating out rivals including Theo Hernandez, Spanish star Salma Paralluelo and Kylian Mbappe for his World Cup final strike.

Oleksy is an amputee footballer who has one leg and plays on crutches - with his winning goal being a spectacular overhead kick.

Prior to the main awards being dealt out, the Fifa/Fifpro World XIs of the year were also announced, with four England players named to the women’s team following their Euro 2022 triumph: Lucy Bronze, Leah Williamson, Kiera Walsh and Beth Mead.

No English players were named in the men’s XI, though four players currently in the Premier League were selected.

A range of current and former players were on stage to hand out the awards, including Carli Lloyd, Alessandro del Piero and Hristo Stoichkov.

In addition, the night began with a tribute to one of football’s biggest-ever icons, Pele, who died in December. Another former Brazilian striker legend, Ronaldo, presented Pele’s widow Marcia Aoki with a special award to recognise the impact and achievements of her late husband.

Alexia Putellas won the Best Fifa women’s player award (AFP via Getty Images)

Full awards list

Best men’s player winner: Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Best women’s player winner: Alexia Putellas (Spain)

Best men’s coach: Lionel Scaloni (Argentina)

Best women’s coach: Sarina Wiegman (England Women)

Best men’s goalkeeper: Emiliano Martinez (Argentina)

Best women’s goalkeeper: Mary Earps (England)

Fifa Puskas Award winner: Marcin Oleksy (Poland)

Fifa Fair Play award: Luka Lochoshvili (Georgia)

Fans’ award: Argentina national team supporters

FIFPRO World XI women: Christiane Endler, Lucy Bronze, Mapi Leon, Leah Williamson, Wendie Renard, Alexia Putellas, Keira Walsh, Lena Oberdorf, Alex Morgan, Sam Kerr, Beth Mead

FIFPRO World XI men: Thibaut Courtois, Achraf Hakimi, Joao Cancelo, Virgil van Dijk, Kevin de Bruyne, Luka Modric, Casemiro, Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema, Erling Haaland

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