Sports Desk, Jan 17 (EFE).- Robert Lewandowski, a superstar striker for Bayern Munich and Poland’s national soccer team, on Monday was named The Best FIFA Men’s Player of the Year for the second straight time.
The equivalent award for the 2021 outstanding women’s player was bestowed on FC Barcelona midfielder Alexia Putellas, who late last year was the recipient of the most recent Ballon d’Or honor.
In a behind-closed-doors ceremony at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, the 33-year-old Lewandowski became the second player in the awards’ six-year history to win the trophy in back-to-back years (Cristiano Ronaldo 2016-2017).
With the Portuguese great not among the final three nominees for the first time since the inception of The Best awards, Lewandowski (48 points) edged out Argentina’s Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain) and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), who received 44 points and 39 points, respectively.
Lewandowski’s triumph erased some of the disappointment from the Ballon d’Or ceremony in late November, when Messi narrowly topped the Pole by a tally of 613 to 580 to win that honor for a record-extending seventh time.
The Polish superstar won in large part on the strength of his outstanding performance in the Bundesliga, including scoring 43 times last year to break the late Gerd Muller’s 49-year record for most goals scored in the German league in a calendar year.
Lewandowski also led Bayern Munich to its ninth consecutive Bundesliga title in 2020-2021. The Bavarians reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League last season but narrowly lost to Paris Saint-Germain (before Messi had joined the French team).
“I am very honored to win this trophy. I feel very proud. I feel happiness because this trophy belongs also to my teammates, to my coaches, because we all work hard to winning the games, to winning the trophies,” Lewandowski said.
“I also say to (Muller), thank you, because without him it would have been impossible. He got so many records and for me and the next generation of players that was the next step, to be there, to break his record.”
Putellas, meanwhile, received top honors for leading Barcelona to their first-ever women’s soccer treble: UEFA Women’s Champions League, Spanish league and Copa de la Reina titles.
The 27-year-old also led Spain’s national team to an outstanding season in which the squad won all 12 of their World Cup 2023 qualifying, friendlies and Euro 2022 qualifying games and outscored their rivals 72-0.
Putellas had never before been one of the three final nominees, but she easily won the trophy with a margin of 52 points to 38 points over her nearest rival, Australia’s Sam Kerr (Chelsea).
With that honor, she became Spain’s first-ever The Best FIFA winner in either the men’s or women’s player of the year categories.
Although Kerr came up short, a pair of Chelsea coaches – Thomas Tuchel and Emma Hayes – snagged the men’s and women’s coaching honors in this edition of the awards and Chelsea netminder Edouard Mendy was named The Best FIFA men’s goalkeeper in recognition of outstanding play that helped lead the London club to their second-ever Champions League title in 2020-2021.
Chile’s Christiane Endler (Paris Saint-Germain) took home the honor for Best FIFA women’s goalkeeper after finishing second in the two previous editions of the prizes.
Two players were honored with the FIFA Award for an Outstanding Career: Cristiano Ronaldo and Christine Sinclair.
Sinclair, a 38-year-old forward for the Portland Thorns FC in the United States’ National Women’s Soccer League and for the Canadian national team, was recognized for her record 188 international goals.
Manchester United’s Ronaldo, 36, who was snubbed for the player of the year shortlist for the first time, garnered the career honor in recognition of his record 115 international goals, a mark he set in September when he moved past Iran’s Ali Daei. EFE