The stars were out on Monday night for the inaugural The Best FIFA Awards™ in Zurich, the first since the global body announced the end of its six-year association with France Football magazine’s Ballon d’Or last December.
Selected journalists, national team coaches and the players that captain them, together split the vote with fans to recognize the year’s standout male and female figures, with the likes of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo predictably capping off a gong-filled 2016 to take home the Men’s Player of the Year award, while Claudio Ranieri’s historic climb to the summit of the Premier League with Leicester City last term saw him take home Best Men's Manager.
However, a breakdown of the voting revealed that Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, as captain of the England national squad, named Jürgen Klopp, manager of bitter rivals Liverpool on his list of coach of the year, snubbing his own boss in José Mourinho in the process. In fairness, the German manager did receive plaudits in his first year at Anfield, engineering a turnaround job to revitalize the club and take the Reds to two finals; and true, Mourinho ultimately spent much of 2016 sat on his couch unemployed after tanking in his second stint at Chelsea in addition to initially struggling out of the blocks at United.
However, these votes tend to be largely symbolic in nature, especially for those voters with illustrious teammates and countrymen in the running, such that most often end up simply voting in solidarity (see: Wales manager Chris Coleman nominating Gareth Bale for Player of the Year). And then there is, of course, the matter of the former Evertonian betraying the pure and enduring enmity between these two arch-rival clubs, and we won’t even get into the definite hit to the bombastic Portuguese manager’s frail ego that the vote represents.
Either way, the upcoming clash between the two at Old Trafford this Sunday, already loaded title and Champion’s League implications for both sides, adds yet another subplot the building drama.