London (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo’s stunning exploits with Real Madrid make him the strong favourite to win the 2017 Best FIFA Men’s Player Award at Monday’s ceremony in London.
The Portuguese superstar, who won last year’s inaugural award, fired Madrid to glory in La Liga and scored 12 goals as they won the Champions League for the third time in four seasons.
He is nominated alongside his eternal rival Lionel Messi and Messi’s former Barcelona team-mate Neymar, now of Paris Saint-Germain.
“In the end, Ronaldo is ahead of the others,” Roma icon Francesco Totti told the FIFA website ahead of the ceremony at the London Palladium.
“He had an amazing season and also accomplished all of his goals with the most prestigious of teams.”
Should Ronaldo prevail, it will pave the way for him to match Messi’s record of five Ballons d’Or when France Football magazine announce the winner of that award early next year.
Ronaldo, 32, won the inaugural Best FIFA Men’s Player Award last year after a six-year merger between the FIFA honour and the Ballon d’Or.
Ronaldo previously won the FIFA World Player of the Year award, the precursor to the Best FIFA award, in 2008.
Messi, 30, scored 54 goals last season as Barcelona won the Copa del Rey.
The Argentina great has made a superb start to the current campaign, scoring 15 goals for Barcelona and earning his country a place at next year’s World Cup with a magical hat-trick against Ecuador.
“We all know who is the best player in the world,” says Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde.
“The truth is, the handing out of a trophy isn’t something that worries me too much.”
– Zidane eyes coach crown –
Brazil star Neymar, 25, won the Copa del Rey with Barcelona last season before joining PSG in a blockbuster 222 million euros ($262 million) deal that obliterated the world transfer record.
The voting for the award, equally weighted between national team captains, national team coaches, media and fans, closed last month.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is expected to be named Best FIFA Men’s Coach after becoming the first man to mastermind a successful defence of the European Cup in the Champions League era.
The former France playmaker is up against Chelsea’s Antonio Conte and Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.
“To be sincere, if they give me it, I’ll take it with pleasure,” Zidane said.
“But if the question is, ‘Am I the best coach in the world?’ No, and I’m sure of it.”
Veteran Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is shortlisted for the Best FIFA Goalkeeper prize alongside Ronaldo’s Madrid team-mate Keylor Navas and Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer.
The shortlist for the Best FIFA Women’s Player award comprises Venezuela’s Deyna Castellanos, American star Carli Lloyd and Dutchwoman Lieke Martens.
The winner of the Puskas Award for the best goal of 2017 will also be announced.
The favourites are Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud’s ‘scorpion kick’ volley against Crystal Palace and South African goalkeeper Oscarine Masuluke’s remarkable overhead bicycle kick for Baroka against Orlando Pirates.
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