PARIS: FIFA yesterday said it had nominated Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann to battle it out for the accolade of world player of the year.
Real Madrid star Ronaldo is favourite for the crown after winning the Champions League and also Euro 2016 with Portugal, albeit he exited the final win over France with an early injury. Perennial rival Messi of Barcelona and Argentina, the reigning player of the year, had a less stellar year by his exacting standards. Griezmann meanwhile suffered double heartache with France and Atletico Madrid at Euro 2016 and in the Champions League.
German Olympic champion Melanie Behringer will go up against Brazilian veteran Marta and US star Carli Lloyd for the women’s accolade. Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane will vie with Leicester miracle worker Claudio Ranieri and Portugal boss Fernando Santos for the title of top coach. Despite benig a relative coaching novice, Zidane led Real to the Champions League after replacing Rafael Benitez mid-season at the Bernabeu. Ranieri shocked the football world when he led Leicester to a first ever league crown in England while Santos ensured Portugal finally broke their major title duck.
“I am getting better day by day and continue to learn. But maybe it is too early for me to be up there among the three nominees,” Zidane reflected modestly. The title of best women’s coach will go either to US handler Jill Ellis, Germany’s Silvia Neid or Sweden’s Pia Sundhage. FIFA will bestow its “Best” awards on the winners at a Zurich gala evening on January 9.
Meanwhile, the football star of Al-Ain SC and the UAE national team Omar Abdulrahman, nicknamed as Amoori, has been named the 2016 AFC Player of the Year at a glittering ceremony here on Thursday. Beaten to the 2015 award by compatriot Ahmed Khalil, the prodigiously talented 25-year-old made up for that disappointment by topping this year’s shortlist ahead of Iraq’s Hammadi Ahmed and Wu Lei from China, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said.
Abdulrahman’s recognition comes after the diminutive midfielder played pivotal roles in guiding Al Ain to this season’s AFC Champions League final, and the UAE to within touching distance of a place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Despite failing to land silverware with Al-Ain at the end of a domestic season which saw the Emirati giants finish second in the league and runners-up in the President’s Cup, Abdulrahman shone brightly during his side’s quest for AFC Champions League glory.
In total, the midfield maestro garnered eight Most Valuable Player Awards, three goals and plaudits galore as Al Ain stormed through the Group Stage, overcame Zobahan, Lokomotiv and El Jaish in the knockout phase and then lost to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors over two legs in the final after which Abdulrahman was duly voted the Toyota Most Valuable Player of the Competition. – Agencies