Madrid, Dec 17 (efe-epa).- Robert Lewandowski, who scored 15 goals to lead Bayern Munich to their sixth Champions League title, was recognized as the world’s best soccer player of the 2019-2020 season in a virtual ceremony on Thursday.
In winning The Best FIFA Men’s Player award for the first time, the 32-year-old Polish superstar forward beat out the players who have virtually monopolized the major soccer awards for more than a decade – fellow finalists Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona, last year’s winner; and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo.
“This really is something – Messi and Ronaldo have been playing at the highest level for years and now I’m rubbing shoulders with them. This means that all the hard work has paid off. I wouldn’t have achieved this without the team – they’re the ones who create the situations for me” to score goals, Lewandowski said.
The fifth edition of this gala was held virtually due to the pandemic, with English sports journalist Reshmin Chowdhury and Dutch coach and former player Ruud Gullit announcing the different winners from FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich.
During the ceremony, tribute was paid to two soccer legends who passed away this year: Argentina’s Diego Maradona (1960-2020), co-recipient (along with Brazil’s Pele) of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award; and Italy’s Paolo Rossi (1956-2020), named the top player of the 1982 World Cup.
Lewandowski, who received the most votes in an online ballot of fans, members of the media and coaches and captains of national teams, came into this year’s awards gala as the heavy favorite after leading Bayern to a rare treble.
Besides his Champions League exploits, he also scored a league-leading 34 goals to lead Bayern Munich to their eighth consecutive Bundesliga title in 2019-2020 and tallied a tournament-best six goals to guide the Bavarian club to their 20th German Cup title.
Lewandowski became the fourth player after Ronaldo, Messi and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric to take home The Best FIFA Men’s Player award, which this year recognized excellence in soccer from July 2019 to October 2020. He garnered 52 points in the voting, while Ronaldo and Messi received 38 points and 35 points, respectively.
The Polish forward’s teammate, Manuel Neuer, was honored as The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper, while Liverpool’s Alisson, the 2019 winner, came in second in the voting and Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak was third.
But Bayern’s bid for a clean sweep of the top awards was spoiled by the selection of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp as The Best FIFA Men’s Coach.
Klopp edged Bayern manager Hans-Dieter Flick – the architect of the Bundesliga club’s sublime play in 2019-2020 – by the narrowest of margins.
The Reds’ head coach was himself surprised at winning for the second straight year, although he got the nod based on more votes from national team coaches after he and Flick had received 24 points in the balloting.
His trump card was his success in leading Liverpool this year to their first English-league title since 1989-1990 (when the Premier League was known as the Football League First Division).
Bayern, however, also managed to land four players on the FIFA FIFPro Men’s World11, the world’s top 11 players as selected by thousands of professional men’s soccer players worldwide.
Besides Lewandowski, Canadian defender Alphonso Davies, German midfielder Joshua Kimmich and Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara (now a member of Liverpool) also made that all-star team.
The other seven players selected were Alisson, his Liverpool teammates Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk, Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos, Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, Ronaldo and Messi.
The winner of The Best FIFA Women’s Player was English defender Lucy Bronze, who led Olympique Lyon to their fifth consecutive Champions League title before signing in the summer with Manchester City.
Sarah Bouhaddi (Olympique Lyon) was named the year’s top goalkeeper, while Sarina Wiegman, head coach of the Netherlands women’s national soccer team, was named The Best FIFA Women’s Coach.
The Best FIFA soccer awards were the most prestigious prizes awarded this year.
The annual Ballon d’Or prize, awarded to the best men’s player over a single calendar year, was canceled in 2020 even though all of the major soccer competitions were completed behind closed doors following a months-long coronavirus-triggered hiatus. EFE-EPA