FIFA Men's Player of the Year
Lionel Messi beats Virgil Van Dijk, Christiano Ronaldo to win FIFA Men's Player of the Year. Photo/Agency

Lionel Messi beats Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk and Juventus’ Christians Ronaldo to win FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award for 2019.

At a ceremony held in Milan’s iconic La Scala Opera House on Monday 23rd, September Messi claimed a surprise victory as FIFA Men’s Player of the Year after he edged out Virgil Van Dijk, who won the UEFA player’s award last month after helping Liverpool to the Champions League last season.

Juventus forward Ronaldo had also been shortlisted for the award but did not attend the ceremony as he was named in FIFA’s World 11 best team along with Messi.

Both Messi, 32, and Van Dijk, 28, are now in the running for the coveted Ballon d’Or which will be announced on December 2.

“I want to thank those who decided to give me this recognition,” said Messi.

“The most important thing for me is the collective awards, but today is also a very special night for me.”

It is the first time that Messi has won the FIFA Best Award which was created in 2016. Ronaldo won for 2016 and 2017, with Croatian Luka Modric beating both last years.

Messi wins FIFA Men’s player of the year3
Messi wins FIFA Men’s player of the year award as Van Dijk finishes 3rd

Messi was the top scorer in the Champions League last season with 12 goals before Barcelona were dumped out by Liverpool in the semi-finals.

The Argentine also won the European Golden Shoe after scoring 36 goals, the La Liga title with Barcelona and helped Argentina to bronze at 2019 Copa America.

Van Dijk had been bidding to become a rare defender to win a FIFA player award since Italian Fabio Cannavaro won the World Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or in 2006.

The Netherlands captain also missed out on completing a treble for Liverpool with manager Jurgen Klopp winning the men’s coach of the year award and Alisson Becker the goalkeeper prize.

Meanwhile, Megan Rapinoe won the female’s award after beating fellow World Cup winner Alex Morgan and England’s Lucy Bronze to the women’s prize, with her USA coach Jill Ellis lifting the women’s coaching award.

Appropriately, Liverpool’s Klopp won the men’s coaching award ahead of two other Premier League coaches in Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino, who the German beat in June’s Champions League final, and Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola.

“It is great, nobody expected this 20, 10, five, four years ago that I would be standing here,” said the 52-year-old German who joined Liverpool in 2015.

By John Dalton Kigozi