ZURICH (AP) — Capping what he called the best year of his career, Cristiano Ronaldo won his fourth FIFA best player award on Monday.
The double European champion with Portugal and Real Madrid beat rival Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann to complete a sweep of top individual awards.
“It was a year that was magnificent at a personal level and at a sporting level,” the 31-year-old Ronaldo said in Portuguese in his acceptance speech, which he began by exclaiming “Wow, wow, wow.”
Ronaldo’s fourth career FIFA award closed the gap on five-time winner Messi, who has been the runner-up to each Ronaldo victory.
Ronaldo received 34.54 percent of total voting points in a 23-candidate ballot to Messi’s 26.42 percent. Griezmann got 7.53 percent. Voting was by national team captains and coaches, selected media and fans online.
Messi did not attend after being pulled out hours before the ceremony by his club Barcelona to prepare for a Spanish Cup match Wednesday.
“Of course, I wish that they (Barcelona players) had been here tonight like in the other years. We have to respect the decision,” Ronaldo said.
Yet again, Ronaldo and Messi snubbed each other on ballot papers they got as captains of Portugal and Argentina. Ronaldo selected three Real Madrid teammates headed by Gareth Bale, and Messi picked Luis Suarez atop an all-Barcelona ballot.
U.S. coach Bruce Arena and captain Michael Bradley both voted Ronaldo first. Arch Bell, the U.S. media member and a contributor to ESPN, voted Suarez first.
Ronaldo’s 2016 trophy haul included the European Championship, Champions League and Club World Cup, plus individual best player awards from UEFA and France Football magazine.
“I won a lot trophies, collective and individual, so I am proud,” said Ronaldo, adding he would send the inaugural silver FIFA Best trophy to the museum dedicated to his career on his home island, Madeira.
Messi’s Barcelona won the Spanish league and cup double in 2016, though Argentina lost another Copa America final. Griezmann’s France and Atletico Madrid lost their finals to Ronaldo’s teams.
Ronaldo’s mentors for club and country were beaten to the coaching award by Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri, who earned the prize for a stunning English Premier League title.
“What happened last year was something strange. The God of football said Leicester must win,” said Ranieri, who was in his first season at the unfashionable provincial club widely tipped for relegation.
Ranieri rose from his seat and politely shook hands with his two opponents, Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane and Portugal’s Fernando Santos, plus their partners before heading to the stage.
The 65-year-old Italian collected his trophy from Diego Maradona, who earlier Monday played in an exhibition match with other retired greats at FIFA headquarters.
Carli Lloyd of the United States won a FIFA player prize for the second straight year, despite a quarterfinals exit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
With gold-medal winner Melanie Behringer of Germany in third place, Lloyd got more than 20 percent of the vote and five-time winner Marta of Brazil was runner-up with 16.6 percent. Behringer got 12.34 percent.
“I honestly was not expecting this,” Lloyd said. “I know Melanie did fantastic in the Olympics.”
Germany did win the women’s coaching prize as Silvia Neid earned her second FIFA prize, after also winning the 2010 award. Neid beat two previous winners: last year’s winner, Jill Ellis of the United States, and Pia Sundhage of Sweden, the Olympic silver medalist.
The Puskas Award for best goal was won in an online poll by Mohd Faiz Subri, who scored with a wildly swerving long-range free kick for Malaysian club Penang.
A players’ vote organized by international union FIFPro gave a World XI of: Manuel Neuer (Germany, Bayern Munich); Dani Alves (Brazil, Barcelona/Juventus), Sergio Ramos (Spain, Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Spain, Barcelona), Marcelo (Brazil, Real Madrid); Toni Kroos (Germany, Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Spain, Barcelona), Luka Modric (Croatia, Real Madrid); Messi, Luis Suarez (Uruguay, Barcelona), Ronaldo.
The First FIFA fan award was chosen by fans and was made to supporters of Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, who joined in singing the English club’s anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” before a Europa League quarterfinal. The other nominees were Iceland fans at Euro 2016 and the Dutch club Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord.
FIFA made its Fair Play Award to Atletico Nacional, the Colombian club which was scheduled to host Chapecoense in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final on Nov. 30.
After most of the Brazilian team died in a plane crash flying to the match, Atletico Nacional asked the South American soccer confederation to present the title and trophy to Chapecoense.