Lionel Messi won the FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award as beaten rival Cristiano Ronaldo stayed away from the star-studded ceremony in Milan’s iconic La Scala Opera House on Monday.
Barcelona striker Messi’s victory was a surprise as he edged out Virgil Van Dijk, who won the UEFA player’s award last month after helping Liverpool to the Champions League last season.
Juventus forward Ronaldo had also been shortlisted for the award, but did not attend the ceremony as he was named in FIFA’s World 11 best team along with Messi.
Both Messi, 32, and Van Dijk, 28, are now in the running for the coveted Ballon d’Or which will be announced on December 2.
“I want to thank those who decided to give me this recognition,” said Messi.
“The most important thing for me is the collective awards, but today is also a very special night for me.”
It is the first time that Messi has won the FIFA Best Award which was created in 2016. Ronaldo won for 2016 and 2017, with Croatian Luka Modric beating both last year.
Messi was top scorer in the Champions League last season with 12 goals before Barcelona were dumped out by Liverpool in the semi-finals.
The Argentine also won the European Golden Shoe after scoring 36 goals, the La Liga title with Barcelona and helped Argentina to bronze at 2019 Copa America.
Van Dijk had been bidding to become a rare defender to win a FIFA player award, since Italian Fabio Cannavaro won the World Player of the Year, and he Ballon d’Or in 2006.
The Netherlands captain also missed out on completing a treble for Liverpool with manager Jurgen Klopp winning the men’s coach of the year award and Alisson Becker the goalkeeper prize.