Megan Rapinoe made a stirring speech after claiming the women’s player of the year at the Best FIFA Football awards in Milan, where Lionel Messi and Jurgen Klopp were also among the winners.
Barcelona star Messi was named FIFA’s men’s player of the year for a record sixth time after a 2018-19 season in which he scored 51 goals for the club and helped them win LaLiga. The Argentina international pipped Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk to the prize.
Liverpool boss Klopp took the men’s coach award, having last term guided his side to Champions League glory and seen them narrowly miss out on the Premier League title, won by Manchester City. Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, whose team Liverpool defeated in the Champions League final, and City’s Pep Guardiola had also been shortlisted.
But Rapinoe stole the show after she was honoured for her key role in the United States winning the Women’s World Cup over the summer, from which she emerged with the Golden Boot and Golden Ball for best player.
After being announced as best women’s player at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, the 34-year-old made a speech during which mentioned various issues within the game, including racism, homophobia and equal pay, and said she had been inspired by England and Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling.
Rapinoe said: “I was going to say some of the stories that have inspired me most this year – Raheem Sterling and (Napoli defender Kalidou) Koulibaly, their incredible performances on the field, but the way that they have taken on the disgusting racism that they have to face, this year but probably for their whole lives.
“I feel like if we really want to have meaningful change, what I think is most inspiring would be if everybody other than Raheem Sterling and Koulibaly, if they were as outraged about racism as they were.
“If everybody was as outraged about homophobia as the LGBTQ players, if everybody was as outraged about equal pay or the lack thereof, or the lack of investment in the women’s game, other than just women, that would be the most inspiring thing to me.
“I feel like that’s my ask of everybody. We have such an incredible opportunity, being professional football players. We have incredible platforms. I ask everyone here – lend your platform to other people, lift other people up, share your success.
“We have a unique opportunity in football to use this beautiful game to actually change the world for better. I hope you take that to heart, and just do something, do anything. We have incredible power in this room.”
Rapinoe won the award ahead of international team-mate Alex Morgan, who matched her in scoring six times during the summer’s tournament in France, and England’s Lucy Bronze, who was the Silver Ball winner at the World Cup.
Rapinoe received her award from FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who claimed this summer would mark a “turning point in women’s football”.
“We will make it shine at the top, top level,” he said. “We will invest, we will create new competitions, Club World Cup, Nations League, and we will make sure women’s football will be side by side with men’s football in all different levels.”
Infantino also said FIFA had received assurances from the authorities in Iran that women in the country would be allowed to attend men’s football matches, starting with “the next international qualifying match of the Iran national team, on October 10”.
Klopp praised his players as he collected his award, saying: “I have to say thank you to my outstanding club Liverpool FC, to the owners, and I have to thank my team. I’m really proud of being the manager of such an incredible bunch of players.”
Outgoing United States boss Jill Ellis took the women’s coach award ahead of England boss Phil Neville.
Ellis this summer became the first coach in history to win two Women’s World Cups, having also overseen the US triumph in 2015. Her side beat Neville’s Lionesses in the semi-finals.
Liverpool’s Alisson Becker won the men’s goalkeeper award, beating Manchester City counterpart Ederson and Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen, while the women’s award went to Holland and former Arsenal keeper Sari Van Veenendaal.
Alisson and Van Dijk were the only Premier League players in the men’s FIFA/FIFpro team of the Year, although Eden Hazard, who left Chelsea for Real Madrid over the summer was included. Lyon’s Bronze was the sole England player in the women’s team.
The fair play award went to Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa and his squad after he last season instructed his players to allow Aston Villa to score an equaliser against them unopposed.
The Puskas Award for the best goal went to 18-year-old Daniel Zsori for an overhead kick scored for Devrecen against Ferencvaros, while Silvia Grecco, who narrates matches to her blind and autistic son inside Palmeiras’ stadium, won the fan award.
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Ernesto Valverde is hoping to finally unleash Lionel Messi on La Liga this weekend as the talismanic Argentine appears likely to feature in Barcelona‘s away trip to Granada.
The reigning champions, currently in fifth place, are struggling away from the Camp Nou and are winless so far this season with a 2-2 draw against Osasuna, and a 1-0 defeat against Athletic Bilbao.
Valverde’s side also drew 0-0 against Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League opener in midweek and were indebted to Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s penalty save from Marco Reus, while the hosts also rattled the crossbar.
Messi, who played his first minutes of the season against Dortmund, is set to start on Saturday evening.
“I saw him well despite the difficulty of the game and because he was playing after such a long period out of the pitch,” Valverde said of Messi’s cameo off the bench in Germany.
“He did not play during the pre-season, so he was not in the best possible shape to play a very physical game. He showed up in the game and in general he was fine.
“Of course, as soon as he’ll play more games, he will get a better shape, and will add more things to the team. We hope he will play tomorrow.”
Newly promoted Granada have won two games so far this season (against Celta Vigo and Espanyol), drew one (Villarreal), and lost one (Sevilla), scoring nine and conceding five goals.
Lionel Messi’s injury woes continue with the Argentine superstar ruled out of Barcelona’s weekend meeting with Valencia, while he may not even be fit for the Blaugrana’s opening Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund next Tuesday.
Messi, 32, has not played for Barca since injuring his calf during his first training session of pre-season in August. He subsequently missed the club’s tour of the United States and hasn’t featured in any of their opening three La Liga games.
Head coach Ernesto Valverde said his star man would be available for selection following the international break and would be ready to face Los Che after Barca’s mixed start to the season.
An opening day 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao was followed by a 5-2 win over Real Betis then a 2-2 draw with newly-promoted Osasuna. His absence four a fourth domestic fixture now appears to almost be a formality, while it will also cast doubt on his involvement in Germany next week.
Valverde’s men travel to the intimidating Westfalenstadion to get their 2019/20 Champions League campaign under way in a tough Group F that also includes Italian heavyweights Inter Milan.
The attacker’s injury has been closely monitored by the club’s medical team but no return date had ever been specified, with Messi’s levels of discomfort being looked at on a day-to-day basis.
It was anticipated he would be back for the Osasuna game, but he didn’t feel right the day before the game and wasn’t risked.
Reports in the local media at the time suggested Messi was still facing another month on the sidelines, which would have ruled him out until the end of September. Barca knocked back that claim at the time, but the Argentine is still no closer to making his first appearance of the season.
A source at the club has told ESPN FC there is some “concern” over Messi’s fitness but the hope is still that he’s back sooner rather than later. The source added that he was able to do some training with the ball on Wednesday in the sandpit at the training ground.
Messi has continued to work alone on his recovery, missing Tuesday and Wednesday’s sessions with the main group and his participation against Valencia, who beat Barca in last season’s Copa del Rey final, appears to be highly unlikely.
And, while the Camp Nou captain has not stopped working on his recovery and was aiming to return against Valencia, the player lacks full match fitness and the rhythm of featuring in competitive clashes, and is therefore unlikely to be risked.
Messi’s last competitive game was at the beginning of July, when he was sent off in Argentina’s third-place play-off win over Chile at the Copa America.
Meanwhile, Luis Suarez should be fit for Saturday’s game. The Uruguay international injured his calf in the loss at Bilbao but has stepped up his recovery during the international break.
Ousmane Dembele remains sidelined until the end of the month with a hamstring injury, meaning Suarez will be paired with Antoine Griezmann in attack.
Carles Perez is also likely to start, having impressed so far this season. Ansu Fati, 16, is still with the first team, too.
Ansu made his debut against Real Betis last month and became the club’s youngest-ever scorer in La Liga when he netted against Osasuna.