And the win­ner is ...

The 2016 Bal­lon d’Or will be a sub­dued af­fair, but the head­lin­ers are still su­perb

CityPress - - Sport - PETER AUF DER HEYDE sports@city­press.co.za

Just over a year ago, the foot­ball world turned its at­ten­tion to Switzer­land, where the 2015 Fifa Bal­lon d’Or was awarded to Lionel Messi at a glit­ter­ing gala in the Zurich Congress Hall. A year later, foot­ball’s con­trol­ling body will again hand out its an­nual award in Switzer­land, but this time around in a much more low-key event, as Fifa at­tempts to re­cover from a year that left the or­gan­i­sa­tion bat­tered and bruised.

The French mag­a­zine France Foot­ball no longer acts as co-or­gan­iser and has re­sumed its own award, as it did be­fore 2010. The venue for this year’s cer­e­mony is a far cry from the lux­u­ri­ous Congress Hall and there have been me­dia re­ports that some of the fi­nal­ists will not even at­tend the cer­e­mony.

Re­gard­less of the above, the Best Fifa Awards, which will be an­nounced to­mor­row, are bound to at­tract at­ten­tion as Messi and his neme­sis, Cristiano Ron­aldo, go head-to-head as they have done con­tin­u­ously since 2008, fin­ish­ing first or sec­ond in all but one of the 11 awards that were handed out since then.

The only gate­crasher was Spa­niard An­drés Ini­esta, who fin­ished sec­ond in 2010 on the back of La Roja’s World Cup win in South Africa.

At the end of last year, Ron­aldo had al­ready won France Foot­ball’s Bal­lon d’Or and he is the hands-down favourite to add the Fifa award to his ever-grow­ing num­ber of per­sonal ac­co­lades.

Ron­aldo and Messi are joined on the three-player short-list by French in­ter­na­tional An­toine Griez­mann. Not­with­stand­ing his ex­cel­lent con­tri­bu­tion to France’s run into the fi­nal of the 2016 Eu­ros and his club side Atlético Madrid mak­ing the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal, any­thing but a dis­tant third place for him would be a huge sur­prise. Only Ron­aldo, but Messi is the best Por­tu­gal coach Fer­nando San­tos, who is one of the three fi­nal­ists for the coach award, said he was cer­tain Ron­aldo would win. “I am con­vinced that Cristiano was the best player of 2016 be­cause of all the things he won: the Uefa Cham­pi­ons League, which he’s al­ready won a few times, and the Euro, a ti­tle that has evaded a lot of great play­ers.

“He’s got it now, and he also picked up a num­ber of in­di­vid­ual awards through­out the year. There’s no doubt in my mind that he has to win it, or that he will ac­tu­ally go on and do so.”

Messi’s Ar­gentina team-mate Ser­gio Agüero, does not agree with San­tos though. “He [Messi] is ahead of the rest, in­clud­ing the other nom­i­nees. And I’m not just say­ing that be­cause he’s my friend. I train with him and I see it with my own eyes. He does things I don’t see any­one else do­ing. He’s the best there is.”

San­tos, who guided Por­tu­gal to suc­cess at the Eu­ros, will be chal­lenged for the coach award by Le­ices­ter City’s Ital­ian coach, Clau­dio Ranieri, and Zine­dine Zi­dane, who won the Cham­pi­ons League with Real Madrid.

The for­mer French in­ter­na­tional is hop­ing to be­come the first per­son to win both the global awards for player and coach.

Also to­mor­row, the Puskas award for the best goal, as well as the best fe­male player and women’s coach, will be an­nounced.

Five-time win­ner Marta is one of the fi­nal­ists for the women’s award, to­gether with Ger­many’s Olympic gold medal­list Me­lanie Behringer, as well as last year’s win­ner Carli Lloyd of the US.

The women’s coach fi­nal­ists are: For­mer Ger­many coach Sil­via Neid; Jill El­lis, who won the World Cup with the US in 2015; and Pia Sund­hage, who took Swe­den to the Olympic fi­nal.

The Puskas award contenders are Mar­lone, Da­niuska Ro­dríguez and Mohd Faiz Subri.

Mar­lone scored for Corinthi­ans with an ac­ro­batic bi­cy­cle kick in a Copa Lib­er­ta­dores match, while Venezuela’s 17-year-old Ro­dríguez mes­merised two de­fend­ers be­fore scor­ing in a game at the South Amer­i­can Un­der-17 cham­pi­onship. Subri, mean­while, scored with a spec­tac­u­lar swerv­ing free kick for Malaysian club FA Pe­nang. Cristiano Ron­aldo (Por­tu­gal/Real Madrid) An­toine Griez­mann (France/Atletico Madrid) Lionel Messi (Ar­gentina/FC Barcelona)

Women’s best player:

Me­lanie Behringer (Ger­many/FC Bay­ern Mu­nich) Carli Lloyd (USA/Hous­ton Dash) Marta (Brazil/FC Rosen­gård)

City) Fer­nando San­tos (Por­tu­gal/Por­tuguese na­tional team) Zine­dine Zi­dane (France/Real Madrid)

Women’s best coach:

Jill El­lis (USA/US na­tional team) Sil­via Neid (Ger­many/Ger­man na­tional team) Pia Sund­hage (Swe­den/Swedish na­tional team)

Puskas Award: Men’s best coach:

Clau­dio Ranieri (Italy/ Le­ices­ter Mar­lone (Brazil/Corinthi­ans) Da­niuska Ro­dríguez (Venezuela/Venezue­lan un­der-17 women’s na­tional team) Mohd Faiz Subri (Malaysia/Pe­nang)

PHOTO: AN­GEL MARTINEZ / REAL MADRID VIA GETTY IMAGES PHOTO: DAVID RAMOS / GETTY IMAGES

FAVOURITE Cristiano Ron­aldo is poised to walk away with the award fol­low­ing an im­pres­sive 2016 HOT PROP­ERTY An­toine Griez­mann had a good year for club and coun­try

PHOTO: EPA / MIGUEL TONA

THE BEST Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, who won last year’s award, faces stiff com­pe­ti­tion this time around from his per­ma­nent neme­sis

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