Brazil coach Tite has recently weighed in with his opinion on who should be walking away with the FIFA Best Player award come January. He has picked Cristiano Ronaldo as his favourite for the coveted prize but, surprisingly, hasn’t named Lionel Messi in even his top 3.
The Selecao boss has tipped Ronaldo to beat out his peers, with Messi’s teammate and Brazilian ace Neymar and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann taking up his second and third votes.
Tite was quoted as saying, “Messi is the best in the world, but in the past season, the best was Cristiano Ronaldo,” to Estado de S.Paulo.
“On their conquests this past year, Cristiano was better. Second to him was Neymar and third would be Griezmann. I left Messi out because he got injured a lot. Cristiano is direct and forceful, and has this fascination with goals,” he added.
Separate awards for Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or
The FIFA World Player of the Year award was rebranded once again after world football’s primary governing body ending their Ballon d’Or collaboration with France football; an award that has repeatedly exchanged hands between just Ronaldo and Messi since 2008.
This year the voting for the award will be split. National team captains and coaches from around the world cast their 3 votes, which will make up for around 50% of the voting.
The other 50% will be split between an online ballot and picks from over 200 media representatives.
Messi walked away with the prize in 2016, with Ronaldo coming in 2nd place and Neymar claiming 3rd. Ronaldinho was the last Brazilian to have won the prestigious prize, winning it back to back in 2004 and 2005.
The race for football’s top individual prize was always going to be very close this season; Ronaldo having won the European Championship with Portugal and Champions League with Real Madrid and Lionel Messi having won La Liga with Barcelona and racking up goals and assists at an incredible rate.
In recent weeks, the competition seemed to heat up further with both Messi and Ronaldo hitting a purple patch of form; the Portugal talisman has 19 goals and 6 assists from his last 18 matches whereas the Argentine maestro has 20 goals and 9 assists in his last 18 matches.
Compare their numbers over the course of the year and it makes for a very similar reading; Ronaldo has managed to score 51 goals and assist 17 in 53 appearances for club and country. Meanwhile, Messi has scored 55 and assisted 32 goals across 58 appearances for club and country.
While Tite has inexplicably decided Messi didn’t deserve to be in his top 3 picks, it’s pretty much a surety at this point that the Argentinian will either be 1st or 2nd when the awards are eventually announced.