Robert Lewandowski declared he would not let it trouble him after Lionel Messi left the Bayern Munich striker off his picks for the FIFA Best Men's Player award.

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Messi lavished Lewandowski with praise after pipping him to the Ballon d'Or award in November, saying the Poland captain would have deserved the previous year's award, which was scrapped because of the pandemic.

Yet when it came to selecting his picks for the FIFA prize, which is a right afforded to all national team captains and head coaches, Argentina skipper Messi chose PSG team-mates Neymar and Kylian Mbappe as his first and second picks respectively, putting Real Madrid's Karim Benzema in third place.

Lewandowski picked Champions League and Euro 2020 winner Jorginho as his first choice, ahead of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

In the end, Messi's voting choices did not prevent Lewandowski picking up the FIFA honour, which went his way on Monday. Messi finished second, with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah third.

"When you see what he said at the Ballon d'Or, those were nice words and it was very nice of him," Lewandowski said of Messi in a news conference on Tuesday.

"Regarding his choices, this question must go to him. I don't think he can be mad at me privately, if it's about sport. It was his decision and I have to respect that. I don't have to be mad. I definitely voted him second."

Messi and Ronaldo had held a near-duopoly over European and world football's top awards in recent times, but Lewandowski has now won the FIFA award in consecutive years.

The 33-year-old set a Bundesliga single-season scoring record last term when he hit 41 goals for champions Bayern Munich, passing Gerd Muller's 40-goal benchmark.

Once again, this season he is setting the standard across Europe's top five leagues for putting the ball in the back of the net.

Among players from the Premier League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, LaLiga and Serie A, nobody comes close to matching Lewandowski's haul of 34 goals in 27 games so far across all competitions.

Benzema is second on the list with 24 goals, Mbappe has 19, while Messi has scored only six times for PSG since his dramatic move from Barcelona.

After Salah (23 goals) in third place, next among scorers is Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland (21 goals).

There has been speculation Haaland's next club could be Bayern, and Lewandowski was asked whether the strikers could play together.

"If I train with him, then after a week or two you could say something," Lewandowski said. "Erling is a different type of player than me. But he's a top player, and I'm happy that he shows how good he is in every game. For me, that means I can keep doing my job.”

Cristiano Ronaldo has said he hopes to play for another "four or five years" despite turning 37 next month.

The Manchester United forward received the FIFA Best Special Award at a ceremony in Zurich on Monday in recognition of breaking the world record for international goals in September last year previously held by Iran's Ali Daei (109), with Ronaldo now on 115 goals for Portugal.

When asked by event co-host Jermaine Jenas about his "obsession" with the game and where it could take him, Ronaldo said he still has the same love for football as he did when he was younger, and gave an idea as to how long he intends to keep playing.

"I still have the passion for the game. Not just to score goals," Ronaldo said. "It's to entertain myself, because I have played football since I was five, six years old.

"When I go to the pitch, even in training, I still enjoy [it] and my motivation is still there. Even [though] I'm going to be 37 soon, I feel good, I feel motivated.

"I keep working hard, since 18 years old, and I continue. I love the game, I still have that passion and I want to continue.

"People ask me sometimes how many years more I am going to play, and I say I hope to play four or five years more.

"It's all about mentally, because I think physically if you treat your body good, when you need your body, it will give it back to you, so this is what I do."

Ronaldo has scored 14 goals in 22 games for United in all competitions since making a dramatic return to Old Trafford at the start of the current season, but recently indicated frustration at the recent form of the team.

The Red Devils currently sit seventh in the Premier League table, five points off fourth-placed West Ham and 24 points behind top of the table Manchester City, though with two games in hand over both.

Talking to Sky Sports last week, the former Real Madrid and Juventus marksman said: "I don't accept that our mentality be less than being in the top three in the Premier League.

"I think to build up good things, sometimes you have to destroy a few things. So why not – new year, new life and I hope that we can be the level that the fans want. They deserve that.

"We are capable of changing things now. I know the way but I'm not going to mention it here because I don't think it's ethical on my part to say that.

"What I can say is we can do better – all of us. Manchester United belongs to important things, so we have to change that.

"I don't want to be here to be in sixth place, or seventh place, or fifth place. I'm here to try to win, to compete.

"I think we compete but we are not yet in our best level. But we have a long way to improve and I believe if we change our mind, we can achieve big things."

The FIFA Best Awards were conducted on Monday, with Chelsea taking three prizes.

While Robert Lewandowski and Alexia Putellas, who won the women's Ballon d'Or last year, took home the prizes for Best Men's and Women's player respectively, the Blues had winners in the form of Thomas Tuchel, Emma Hayes and Edouard Mendy.

Tuchel, who guided Chelsea to Champions League success last season, scooped the Best Men's Coach award, while Hayes was named Best Women's Coach.

Hayes' team won the Women's FA Cup and Premier League in 2020-21, while also finishing as runners-up in the Women's Champions League to Barcelona, who Putellas plays for.

Mendy, meanwhile, won the Best Men's Goalkeeper award. However, he did not make the Men's XI, with Italy and Paris Saint-Germain shot-stopper Gianluigi Donnarumma preferred.

Tuchel's triumph also means that a German coach has won the Men's award for the last three years, after Jurgen Klopp in 2020 and 2019.

The Denmark national team won the Fair Play Award for their actions in helping to save Christian Eriksen's life after the midfielder collapsed on the pitch in Copenhagen at Euro 2020.

Erik Lamela won the Puskas Award for his incredible rabona finish in the north London derby.

Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, was given a Special Award for his career achievements.

FIFA Best Awards 2021 winners:

Robert Lewandowski (Best Men's Player)
Thomas Tuchel (Best Men's Coach)
Edouard Mendy (Best Men's Goalkeeper)
Alexia Putellas (Best Women's Player)
Emma Hayes (Best Women's Coach)
Christiane Endler (Best Women's Goalkeeper)
Denmark men's national team (FIFA Fair Play Award)
Erik Lamela (Puskas Award)
Denmark and Finland fans (FIFA Fan Award)
Cristiano Ronaldo (FIFA Special Award)
Christine Sinclair (FIFA Special Award)

There is nothing quite like an individual football award to create debate and there is sure to be plenty when one of Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski or Mohamed Salah is named this year's men's FIFA Best winner on January 17.

While team trophies will always be the end game for most players, the few who are good enough to be in contention for individual accolades put such importance on being recognised that they have been known to move clubs specifically to improve their chances of collecting silverware in a tuxedo rather than just in a dirty kit. Neymar, anyone?

The Ballon d'Or is broadly seen as football's version of the Oscars, but the annual FIFA Best award is also becoming one of the more sought-after honours and the latest men and women's winners will be crowned on Monday at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich.

The awards will be decided by an international jury comprising national team coaches and captains, a selected journalist from each territory represented by a national side, and fans registered with FIFA's website.

Stats Perform has taken a look at the data of the three nominees for the men's prize to try and decipher who is likeliest to come away with the prize.

The Best... at scoring goals

It is a harsh truth that scoring goals will almost always win over stopping them when it comes to the top awards, so it makes sense that Messi, Lewandowski and Salah are the nominees for this year.

The trio scored 129 goals between them in 145 collective games across 2021, which includes 21 overall in this season's Champions League group stage, over seven per cent of the total amount scored in the competition (297).

However, there is no doubt which of the star trio stood out for finding the net time and time again.

Lewandowski, last year's winner, was frankly ridiculous in front of goal, netting 43 in the Bundesliga in a calendar year, breaking Gerd Muller's record from 1972, and 58 in all competitions in just 47 outings.

Salah had a mixed year at Liverpool, with the Reds' poor form at the start of 2021 almost costing them a place in the Premier League's top four. However, thanks in part to the Egypt forwards' 15 goals in 28 games between the turn of the year and end of the campaign, Liverpool reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League and finished third in the league, ahead of European champions Chelsea.

His nomination is mostly down to his form in the second half of the year, though, with Salah scoring 22 goals in 25 games in all competitions. He scored 37 times in all competitions in 2021, at least 15 more than any other Premier League player, and is top of the scoring charts for 2021-22 in England's top flight with 16, well ahead of team-mate Diogo Jota in second place on 10.

For Messi, it is probably the other way round. The legendary Argentine has managed only six goals in 16 appearances since his sensational move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain at the end of last season.

However, his 28 goals in 29 games for Barca between New Year's Day and his emotional departure was Messi at his effervescent best, even if the rest of the team was lagging behind him, and he followed that up with four at the Copa America for Argentina.

Consistency and underlying numbers

While it has been mostly impressive from all three, Lewandowski's consistency puts him above the other two, with a 55.17 big chance conversion percentage across 2021, compared to Messi's 45.95 and Salah's 45.90, and an overall shot conversion rate of 28.02 against Salah's 19.37 and Messi's 15.74.

Unsurprisingly, this also led to a significantly better minutes per goal rate, with Lewandowski averaging a goal roughly every 68 minutes, while Messi bagged one every 116 minutes and Salah every 122 minutes.

While all three scored plenty of penalties that could potentially skew the numbers, Lewandowski again dominated in expected goals (xG) without spot kicks, with a 2021 xG excluding penalties of 43.86, compared with Salah's 29.6 and Messi's 24.37.

Not all scorers have to be selfish

Of course, while goals make the headlines, someone has to create them or nothing will happen. This is where Salah and Messi start to claw it back.

Lewandowski managed seven assists in 2021 in all competitions and created 61 chances for team-mates. Quite respectable for any number nine.

However, despite a perhaps unfair reputation for being "selfish", Salah recorded 11 assists and created 88 chances, while Messi had 13 assists to his name and created exactly 100 opportunities.

In terms of big chances (which Opta define as an opportunity from which a player would be expected to score), it is a bit closer, with Lewandowski crafting 16, Salah 18 and Messi 24, though with the Pole usually playing higher up the pitch it makes sense that the opportunities he creates would come in a dangerous area.

Show us your medals

While it is not entirely without merit, it does seem a bit counter-intuitive to base how much credit an individual player deserves on what his team has achieved. There are plenty of world-class players who did not always play in teams capable of winning much silverware, just like there have been numerous average players who were simply members of squads that won a lot, whether they had much to do with it or not.

It usually comes into consideration when the big awards are handed out though and is likely the ultimate reason that Messi pipped Lewandowski to last year's Ballon d'Or.

Messi helped Barcelona win the Copa del Rey last season and then inspired Argentina to glory at the Copa America, with his nine direct goal involvements helping them to win the trophy for the first time since 1993.

Lewandowski, on the other hand, had less success at Euro 2020, with Poland crashing out at the group stage of the re-arranged tournament. He still managed to score three goals in as many games for his country, but was unable to force them into the knockout stages.

He did win the Bundesliga title again with Bayern, but after claiming a remarkable treble the year before, it may rather harshly look like a bit of a regression.

Unfortunately for Salah, this is probably where his chance to finish above the other two falls down, as arguably proven by his astonishingly low seventh place in the Ballon d'Or voting.

The 29-year-old did not have an opportunity for national team success in 2021, and he is currently aiming to help Egypt recover from an opening game defeat to Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, but he also did not win any trophies at club level.

It is possibly a bit too early for Salah, but his form has been electric this season and if he can continue it through the rest of the campaign, ideally for Liverpool collecting a trophy or two along the way, he will certainly be in the conversation for next year's honours.

The question will be the same as it was for the Ballon d'Or; will those with voting power be more impressed by Lewandowski's goalscoring exploits, or by Messi's final six months at Barca followed by a successful Copa America, or could Salah's explosive form in the second half of the year see him sneak it?

Whatever the outcome, you would be hard-pressed to argue that the trio are not currently the three best footballers on the planet, though if you take a look on social media when the winner is announced, you'll find plenty of people willing to try.

Robert Lewandowski, Lionel Messi and Mohamed Salah have been announced as the three finalists for The Best FIFA Men's Player Award.

The attacking trio were named on a shortlist for the prize in November that also included Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Karim Benzema, Jorginho and N'Golo Kante.

Lewandowski, Messi and Salah are the final nominees chosen following a public vote that closed on December 10. Jennifer Hermoso, Sam Kerr and Alexia Putellas are the finalists for the women's award for 2021.

The final three up for The Best FIFA Men's Coach award, confirmed on Thursday, are Pep Guardiola, Roberto Mancini and Thomas Tuchel. Lluis Cortes, Emma Hayes and Sarina Wiegman are the finalists for the women's coaching prize.

The player awards will now be decided by an international jury comprising national team coaches and captains, a selected journalist from each territory represented by a national side, and fans registered with FIFA's website. The winners will be announced on January 17.

Lewandowski, who won the 2020 prize after firing Bayern Munich to the treble, scored 41 times in the Bundesliga last season to break Gerd Muller's 49-year record for goals in a single season. He ended 2021 with 48 goals in all competitions.

Messi, who won the 2021 Ballon d'Or to extend his record to seven trophies, helped Barcelona to win the Copa del Rey in what proved to be his final season at the club. He then inspired Argentina to glory at the Copa America, with four goals and five assists helping them to win the trophy for the first time since 1993.

Liverpool star Salah scored 37 times in all competitions in 2021, at least 15 more than any other Premier League player. He is top of the scoring charts for 2021-22 in England's top flight with 16, ahead of team-mate Diogo Jota on 10.

Carlo Ancelotti backed Thibaut Courtois by insisting he would not swap the Belgian for anyone after the Real Madrid star was snubbed for The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper award.

World football's governing body announced its list of nominees for the end-of-year awards on Monday, and Courtois was curiously absent.

Alisson, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Edouard Mendy, Manuel Neuer and Kasper Schmeichel were those confirmed to be in the running for the goalkeeper award.

Courtois, who won the award in 2018, does not believe he has been overlooked because of his performances, rather recent comments he made.

The 29-year-old criticised UEFA and FIFA in October, accusing the institutions of treating players like "robots" amid fixture congestion, claiming those in charge only "care about their pockets" and not those playing the sport.

Speaking on Tuesday ahead of Madrid's Champions League clash with Sheriff, Courtois told reporters: "I'm not going to comment on why I'm not nominated for The Best.

"I think it's because of something I commented on a month ago, but that's it. Whoever gets it wins. The individual awards are not important."

Madrid certainly are not shy about publicly backing their own players for individual awards, with such campaigns frequently seen during Cristiano Ronaldo's time at the club.

More recently, the club has backed Karim Benzema to win the Ballon d'or with social media posts.

But Ancelotti highlighted the greater importance for Courtois to win titles with Madrid, with the Italian adamant he would not change goalkeepers despite FIFA seemingly not rating him among the five best in 2021.

"There are many good goalkeepers in Europe," Ancelotti said. "Others are going to choose [who wins the award], what are we going to do about it?

"We wouldn't want to change him for anyone and I think he doesn't want to change this club for any other. It's a marriage that is fine.

"For him, it is more important to win LaLiga or the Champions League than an individual trophy."

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah have all been nominated for the 2021 The Best FIFA Men's Player award.

Chelsea midfielders Jorginho and N'Golo Kante, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Paris Saint-Germain stars Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are also on the shortlist.

Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid's Karim Benzema complete the 11-man list.

There are seven nominees for the Best FIFA Men's Coach prize, including City boss Pep Guardiola and Italy coach Roberto Mancini, who led his side to Euro 2020 glory.

Hansi Flick is nominated after significant success with Bayern before taking the Germany job, along with Chelsea's Thomas Tuchel, Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone and new Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte.

Lionel Scaloni, who guided Argentina to a Copa America triumph, completes the list.

Liverpool's Alisson, PSG's Gianluigi Donnarumma, Chelsea's Edouard Mendy, Bayern's Manuel Neuer and Kasper Schmeichel of Leicester City are up for the Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper award.

The shortlist for the Best FIFA Women's Player includes four Barcelona players, among them Alexia Putellas and Jennifer Hermoso.

Pernille Harder leads a four-woman Chelsea contingent, while City duo Ellen White and Lucy Bronze are nominated, as is Arsenal's Vivianne Miedema.

Barcelona's Lluis Cortes, Sweden's Peter Gerhardsson, Chelsea's Emma Hayes, Canada's Beverly Priestmann and England boss Sarina Wiegman are up for the Best FIFA Women's Coach prize.

The candidates for each category were selected by respective panels of experts for men's and women's football. A public vote will run until 23:59 CET on December 10, after which three finalists in each category will be announced ahead of the ceremony on January 17.

Lewandowski won the Men's Player prize in 2020, ahead of Ronaldo and Messi, while Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp took the Men's Coach award.

Bronze was named the Best FIFA Women's Player and Wiegman the Best FIFA Women's Coach.

The Best FIFA Football Awards 2021 will be held as a virtual event from Zurich on January 17 next year.

FIFA's alternative to the Ballon d'Or has been held consecutively every year since 2017, with Cristiano Ronaldo scooping the first award as Best Men's Player.

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski took that accolade for the 2020 awards and will be hoping his record-breaking efforts in the Bundesliga last season will be enough to defend that title.

Competition is likely to come from Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, who came third in 2018 and has enjoyed a remarkable start to 2021-22, while France duo Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema seem set to be in the running too. Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, of course, cannot be discounted.

The Best Men's Goalkeeper and Best Men's Coach are also up for grabs, as are the equivalent of all three awards for the women's game. 

The FIFPRO Men's and Women's XIs will also be named.

With coronavirus cases around Europe still rising, FIFA has chosen to host the event virtually, rather than have attendees present.

A FIFA statement read: "The Best incorporates the views of the four pillars of the footballing world.

"The recipients of the trophies for the top players and coaches in both women's and men's football will be determined through a combined voting process involving the captains and head coaches of all national teams around the world, an online ballot of fans and submissions from a select group of more than 300 media representatives."

Voting will commence on November 22 and close on December 10.

Robert Lewandowski has paid tribute to Jurgen Klopp for the impact he had on the striker's path to being crowned the best player in the world last month.

Bayern Munich star Lewandowski won The Best FIFA Men's Player award for 2020 after starring as Die Roten claimed a Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal treble.

Between July 20, 2019 and October 7, 2020 – the period considered for the award – Lewandowski scored 60 club goals in 52 appearances across all competitions at a rate of one every 76 minutes.

He beat Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to the prize, with the Pole effectively recognised the best footballer in the world in the absence of a Ballon d'Or winner in 2020.

Lewandowski has enjoyed immense success since joining Bayern in 2014, though he already looked destined for greatness during his time at Borussia Dortmund, where Klopp had begun to mould him into the lethal forward he is now.

Writing in a reflective piece for the Players' Tribune in the wake of his FIFA award win, Lewandowski said of the current Liverpool boss: "Jurgen was not only a father figure to me. As a coach, he was like the 'bad teacher'. And I mean that in the best sense of the word.

"Not the one who made life easy for you and never expected anything from you, but the one who was strict with you. The one who put pressure on you and did everything to get the best out of you. That's the teacher who made you better. Jurgen was like that.

"He was not content to let you be a B-grade student. Jurgen wanted A+ students. He didn't want it for him. He wanted it for you.

"I could talk to Jurgen about anything. I could trust him. He is a family man, and he has so much empathy for what goes on in your private life."

Lewandowski took a season to truly adapt to German football after joining from Lech Poznan in his native Poland, as he only netted eight Bundesliga goals in 33 games during the 2010-11 campaign.

That remains the only season he has failed to reach double figures for league goals during his time in Germany, and Lewandowski considers Klopp's influence to be a major part of his improvement.

"He taught me so much," the striker continued. "When I arrived at Dortmund, I wanted to do everything quickly: strong pass, one touch only. Jurgen showed me to calm down — to take two touches if necessary.

"It was totally against my nature, but soon I was scoring more goals. When I had that down, he challenged me to speed it up again.

"One touch. BANG. Goal. He slowed me down to speed me up. It sounds simple, but it was genius, really."

Lewandowski's shot conversion rate rose from 13.1 per cent to 22.5 after his first season with Klopp and has never dipped below 20 per cent since.

In fact, the 32-year-old appears to be getting better with age, given his best ever return in terms of shot conversion was posted last term (29.8), and he is well on track to obliterate that personal best in 2020-21.

With 20 goals in 14 Bundesliga games, the Polish marksman is converting 44.4 per cent of his opportunities.

 

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