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SPORTS | 27-02-2023 21:56

Argentina dominates FIFA's 'The Best' award ceremony

Messi, Scaloni and 'Dibu' Martinez also pick up prizes, with even Argentina's legendary fanbase honoured with an award.

The Albiceleste's World Cup triumph in Qatar last December was followed on Monday by a star turn for Argentina at FIFA's 'The Best' awards ceremony: Lionel Messi, Lionel Scaloni and Emiliano 'Dibu' Martinez all won the awards for best player, best coach and best goalkeeper respectively.

Even Argentina's fans, massive protagonists at the World Cup last December in Qatar, were rewarded for their passion for their national team by being named the best fans in the world. The award was collected by popular hincha Carlos 'El Tula' Pascual.

"This year was just mad for me, to be able to achieve my dream that I had fought so hard for. In the end I got it and it was the most beautiful thing that has happened in my career," Messi said of his World Cup win as he collected his award, visibly nervous as he himself acknowledged.

In the voting, Messi beat Kylian Mbappé, his French teammate at Paris Saint-Germain, and Karim Benzema, Real Madrid's French striker, who in December had picked up the Ballon d'Or, the prestigious award given out by France Football magazine to the best player of the year.

The award, which is voted for by national team coaches and captains, journalists and also fans, recognises a year in which the former Barcelona star crowned his glorious career by leading Argentina to victory at the World Cup.

"It is a dream for every footballer but something that very few can make come true," added Messi, who was sat in the Paris theatre in between Mbappé and his wife Antonella Roccuzzo.

At the age of 35, this is the third time Messi has won the award, following on from 2009 (when the prize was called 'FIFA World Player of the Year') and 2019, surpassing FC Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski, the winner of the two previous editions.

Two-and-a-half months after winning the magical World Cup win "that will remain in our memories for life," as Messi acknowledged, Argentina's footballing folklore was the absolute star of the gala event, with other key awards going to Scaloni and 'Dibu' Martínez.

Just hours earlier, Scaloni had confirmed that he had signed a new contract to remain as Albiceleste coach until 2026. During his acceptance speech, the 44-year-old thanked "the 26 players who led us to glory" in Qatar.

"There's nothing nicer than seeing your people happy, your country, seeing those people excited, enjoying themselves, it's priceless, the triumph is for them," Scaloni said as he collected his award from former Milan and Real Madrid coach Fabio Capello, among others.

Argentina's coach saw off competition from Italy's Carlo Ancelotti, Champions League winner with Real Madrid, and Spain's Pep Guardiola, Premier League winner with Manchester City.

Martinez, 30, had already been voted the best goalkeeper at the World Cup and he was rewarded for his instrumental role in the Albiceleste's third World Cup title, which included match-winning saves in a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win over France.

The Aston Villa keeper, who beat Belgium's Thibaut Courtois and Morocco's Yassine Bounou in the voting, remembered his "idols" as he picked up the award. He paid tribute to "my mum, who worked nine hours cleaning a building, and my dad, who worked all day."

Elsewhere, Spain's Alexia Putellas retained the women's award at the ceremony in Paris. The 29-year-old beat England's European Championship-winning striker Beth Mead and United States star Alex Morgan to add the FIFA crown to the Ballon d'Or, which she has also won two years running.


Putellas is currently recovering from a serious knee injury suffered last July which ruled her out of the Euro in England with Spain. Prior to that she had scored 11 goals on Barcelona's run to the Champions League final, which they lost to Lyon.

Putellas has previously said she hopes to return from injury in time to play again this season, but it remains to be seen whether she will feature for Spain at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in July and August.

Meanwhile, England's European Championship victory helped their Dutch manager Sarina Wiegman win the prize for best women's coach, while Mary Earps was named the women's goalkeeper of the year.

Polish amputee player Marcin Oleksy took the Puskas Award for best goal, named after Hungary great Ferenc Puskas.



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