The sixth edition of The Best FIFA Football Awards is set to take place on the 27th of February in Zurich Switzerland. Many awards will be on offer ranging from The Best FIFA Men’s Player to the FIFPro 11, which is an all-star team of the strongest performers over the year 2022. FIFA’s awards differ from the Ballon d’Or as they offer fans the ability to vote for who they believe should win the awards. Voting is now already open, but who are the most likely candidates to sweep the various men’s awards this winter?
There is also the Best FIFA Men’s Coach award, but this will go to Carlo Ancelotti without a doubt, as the legendary Italian manager led his Real Madrid team to an incredible double success.
The Best FIFA Men’s Player
The most prestigious award is for the best-performing player of the year overall. Karim Benzema claimed the Ballon d’Or for his exceptional performances in the UEFA Champions League for Real Madrid, as well as his excellent scoring record in general. However, Lionel Messi’s heroic performance in Qatar to finally win the FIFA World Cup will surely boost his chances greatly. Messi previously won the award in 2019 and it is tough to look past him in this year’s edition especially due to his popularity worldwide with fans accounting for a significant percentage of the votes. The Argentine claimed the Golden Ball at the World Cup, and exceptional performances on the highest stage do not go unnoticed.
Messi will be hoping to finally win the UCL trophy with another club this year with Paris Saint Germain, although the Best FIFA Men’s Player award would also be an impressive achievement for the widely acclaimed greatest player of all time. Messi is a four-time UCL winner but winning a further European title with another club would be huge for his overall legacy.
The UCL is the biggest soccer club competition on the planet and its popularity in the US is no different to the rest of the world, which is why winning it can have such a huge impact on a player’s reputation. It is a huge driver in attracting people to watch football in the nation due to the ease with which the fixtures can be watched on CBS and the Paramount+ app on the go. The increasing popularity of betting has coincided with the growth of the sport in the US. Over the past few years, more and more states have gradually begun to legalise online betting through draft legislation that has passed through the various political bodies, so it is now legal in 26 states. The ease with which bets can be placed will surely only increase the popularity also, with the ability to place bets digitally via mobile applications.
Sadio Mane would have been another strong shout for the award but his injury absence from the World Cup has likely cost him any realistic chance. He finished second in the Ballon d’Or rankings last year due to his stunning form with quadruple chasing Liverpool before his transfer to Bayern Munich. Mane adapted to the Bundesliga seamlessly but a strong World Cup campaign with Senegal was certainly needed to put him in contention for the award, Messi looks the clear front runner and it would be a huge surprise if the award does not belong to him in February.
FIFPro 11 Goalkeepers
Aside from the FIFPro 11, the other awards available to players include the Puskas Award for the best goal of the year and the Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper award. It is likely that the same goalkeeper will receive the award as well as be named in the 11, however, this is not always the case. Alisson Becker will be a massive contender for the award due to his contributions to a Liverpool side that competed on all four fronts last season. The Brazilian made a number of stunning saves at decisive moments of UCL and Premier League ties for the Reds, without him Liverpool could not have come remotely clear to an unprecedented quadruple.
Alisson’s Brazil were upset in the World Cup quarter-final by Croatia via a penalty shootout. Despite Alisson being his usual self throughout the competition – acrobatic reflex saves were a regular occurrence – Brazil’s failure to win the World Cup trophy could cost Alisson in terms of the FIFA awards. Thibaut Courtois’ Belgium crashed out in the group stage of the World Cup, but for Real Madrid, he was vital in the club’s 14th UCL triumph against Liverpool in May. Courtois’ victory over his fellow goalkeeper in the biggest fixture in world football could well have tipped the odds in his favour.
In defence, Manchester City and Real Madrid will likely feature in the FIFPro 11. Both teams won their respective domestic league titles, and the latter won the UCL in addition helped by their excellent defence. For City, Joao Cancelo is a strong contender at full-back for his impressive performances mainly in the Premier League in 2022 as he helped the club to yet another league title. A tight battle went to the final day against rivals Liverpool but Cancelo’s creativity was vital over the course of the season. Cancelo managed three goals and 10 assists across all competitions, which is hugely impressive considering those contributions came from the fullback role.
In central defence, the main competitor comes from Madrid in the form of David Alaba. He played a crucial role in the heart of the defence for Los Blancos, in the UCL he managed to mark Mohamed Salah out of the final in Paris. The Austrian’s performances were incredibly consistent throughout the year as he also led the Spanish giants to another La Liga title. City’s Ruben Dias and Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk will also likely be popular in the defenders vote. Both have certainly not had the most impressive year of their career though.
The midfield voting is extremely tough to call with there being many top performers in that area. Again the two league champions City and Madrid will likely dominate. Kevin de Bruyne had a tournament to forget with Belgium at the World Cup but he was invaluable to City’s title chase and was also important in the Champions League despite their cruel exit to Madrid in the semi-finals. He managed 10 goals and seven assists in the second half of the Premier League season and was the driving force as they secured a narrow title success over Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
For Real Madrid, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are contenders. Modric in particular was the most impressive in Madrid’s victory on the biggest stage. In the knockout rounds, he made a number of exceptional passes and runs from deep which led to decisive goals for his team. His stunning trivella assist against Chelsea was the highlight as he aided Los Blancos’ dramatic comeback victory in the quarter-final.
The attack mainly writes itself, whether Benzema manages to sweep another award to add to his Ballon d’Or or not, he will certainly feature in the attack alongside Messi. The final attacker could potentially be Mane although there are many other players who could be named in the final spot – Antoine Griezmann could perhaps even be a surprise admission after his impressive resurgence including an admirable World Cup campaign with France. Regardless of which players win the votes for the various awards, millions of people’s voices will be accounted for by the time voting closes, and for some the UEFA awards offer a much more objective outcome than the Ballon d’Or for which a select group of journalists are able to vote. An exciting spectacle awaits in Switzerland in February, will Messi’s legacy grow further and could there be some surprising admissions to the FIFPro 11?