No Messi at FIFA ceremony

Barcelona, have confirmed Lionel Messi will not be attending the Best FIFA Awards ceremony in Switzerland on Monday evening, increasing the expectations Cristiano Ronaldo will claim the Men’s Player prize.

Argentine playmaker Messi was on a three-man shortlist for the accolade along with Ronaldo and Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann.

However, Barcelona issued a statement on Monday morning in which the LaLiga club said the players nominated would be instead focussing on preparations for the upcoming Copa del Rey tie against Atletico at the Nou Camp on Wednesday, with officials set to represent the Spanish giants.

“With the aim of prioritising preparations for Wednesday’s game against Athletic Club, FC Barcelona have decided that the players recognised in the Gala The Best FIFA Awards, which takes place on Monday in Zurich, will not be travelling to Switzerland for the ceremony,” the statement read.

“The club’s delegation is led by president Josep Maria Bartomeu, sporting vice president Jordi Mestre, director Silvio Elías, CEO Oscar Grau, Albert Soler (director of professional sports), Robert Fernandez (first-team technical secretary) and Raul Sanllehi (director of football).

“FC Barcelona thank FIFA, its president Gianni Infantino and the executive structure for the organisation’s help in being able to take part in today’s Gala.

“The club expresses their recognition and support for the Best FIFA Awards.”

Ronaldo will be hoping to add to last month’s Ballon d’Or triumph in recognition of his fine 2016.

The attacker helped Real Madrid to Champions League glory and Portugal to the European Championship, seeing him edge out Barcelona rival Messi and Griezmann in the Ballon d’Or running.

Although Ronaldo topped the poll, it was Messi who found himself the most mentioned of the trio on Twitter during 2016.

Some 51 million Tweets mentioned the Barcelona number 10, while there were 42 million for Ronaldo and 6.5 million for France forward Griezmann.

Having split with France Football magazine, governing body FIFA introduced the Best FIFA Football Awards.

The inaugural edition of the awards will be held in Zurich’s TPC studio.

As well as the FIFA FIFPro World11 being announced, Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri is shortlisted for the managerial award, along with Portugal’s Fernando Santos and Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

On the shortlist for the FIFA Women’s Player Award are Germany’s Melanie Behringer, Carli Lloyd of the United States and Brazilian Marta.

Liverpool could be recognised in the new FIFA Fan Award after their fans and Borussia Dortmund’s bellowed out ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ ahead of April’s Europa League tie at Anfield.

The chorus of solidarity, a day before the 27th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, is a candidate along with ADO Den Haag, whose supporters threw soft toys for Feyenoord fans to donate to charity, and the Icelandic support at Euro 2016.

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