Messi netted nine Ligue 1 goals for PSG in 2023 before moving to the USA. And he has since found the back of the net 11 times in 14 appearances for Inter Miami, although only one of those strikes has come in the MLS.
The Best FIFA Men’s Player award was voted for by players and coaches of men’s national teams as well as journalists and fans, with each group having an equal say. Haaland and Kylian Mbappe were also up for the award but were left disappointed as the Argentine was given the honour.
Messi was absent for the award ceremony, which was co-hosted by Arsenal icon Thierry Henry. And after the winner was announced, Henry joked to his co-presenter Reshmin Chowdhury: “Unfortunately the winner is not with us tonight. So someone is going to have to take the trophy. I might, shall I? I mean, I came. I actually have two reasons for taking it. I never won it so I’ll keep it and you’re a Tottenham fan right? That’s the other reason, because you don’t usually get your hands on the trophy so I’ll take this one. Thank you very much.”
Haaland may feel hard done by for missing out on the award after inspiring Manchester City to the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup treble last season. The 23-year-old Norway international bagged 29 Premier League goals in 2023 and also bagged 12 goals in the Champions League.
Those European strikes included five goals against RB Leipzig in the second leg of the round of 16 as City put the German side to the sword.
Meanwhile, Aitana Bonmati won the Best Women’s Player award after playing a starring role as Barcelona won the Champions League and Spain won the World Cup.
Earlier in the evening, Haaland was included alongside Citizens team-mates Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, John Stones, Bernardo Silva and Kevin de Bruyne in the FIFPRO Men’s Best XI after City boss Pep Guardiola had won the FIFA Best Men’s Coach. And Guardiola paid tribute to his players on the stage as he exclaimed: ”Thank you so much to our players for what they have done for eight years together. Thank you so much for this incredible journey.”