On Monday night Real Madrid’s Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo was presented with the inaugural FIFA Best Player of the Year award for 2016 following his incredible exploits at club and national team level during the year in question.
Ronaldo won the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid at the end of the 2015-16 season, while he led Portugal to the Euro 2016 title in July, producing typically exceptional individual displays and scoring numerous goals along the way.
The 31-year-old was selected to win the accolade ahead of Barcelona rival Lionel Messi in second and Atletico Madrid’s French star Antoine Griezmann in third.
The votes to determine the eventual winner came from the captains and coaches of national teams around the world, as well as a select group of media members, with each person asked to vote for three players as the first, second and third best for the year.
Among the national team captains that voted, were some of Africa’s top players such as John Obi Mikel of Nigeria, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire skipper Gervinho and Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan, among others.
Once the winner was announced, FIFA released the official votes that were cast by those who took part, and it revealed some interesting voting patterns with regards to the African captains.
Gervinho, Mikel and Gyan all backed Ronaldo for the award, as did Kenya’s Victor Wanyama, Mozambique’s Elias Pelembe and Rainford Kalaba of Zambia.
Former African Player of the Year Aubameyang used his main vote for Brazilian Neymar, with Ronaldo and Messi in second and third respectively, while Morocco skipper Mehdi Benatia chose Italian goalkeeper and club team-mate at Juventus, Gianluigi Buffon as his top choice, followed by Ronaldo and Neymar.
Super Eagles captain Mikel failed to acknowledge Messi as one of his podium finishers, choosing to vote for Griezmann and German keeper Manuel Neuer after Ronaldo. Gervinho followed suit, but chose newly crowned African Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez of Algeria as his third pick.
Gyan, who will lead the Black Stars into battle at the upcoming 2017 AFCON this month, chose Ronaldo over Messi, but had the Argentine in second with his Barca team-mate Neymar in third.
Despite the overwhelming voting in support of Ronaldo from African captains, there were two individuals who decided to show some love to the Portuguese goal machine’s rival, Messi.
Egypt’s Essam El-Hadary and Cameroon captain Benjamin Moukandjo both chose Messi as their best pick for 2016, but they couldn’t deny Ronaldo a place on their podiums, with both choosing him as their second pick.
At the end of the day Ronaldo deserved to be voted as the best for the previous year, after all of his personal and collective achievements in 2016, but I look forward to the day when an African player is in with a serious shout at the FIFA Best Player of the Year award – I fear that time may only come once both Messi and Ronaldo are retired… but hopefully before their children play at a professional level.
Tell us if you think Ronaldo deserves it @_TRUEAfrica