These footballers came close but could not top the podium.
Robert Lewandowski retained his FIFA Best Player award after being voted as the best men’s player for the year 2021. Lewandowski, who scored 61 goals in the calendar year won with 48 votes. Lionel Messi, a former winner of the award himself, came second with four fewer votes, while Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah was voted the third-best men’s player of 2021.
The award, originally known as the FIFA World Player of the Year, was re-modeled in 2016 as The Best FIFA Men’s Player Award. Since then, Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo (2016 & 17) are the only two players to win the award twice. Luka Modric (2018) and Messi (2019) have won in the other two years. The FIFA awards have been in place since 1991, but in 2010 it was merged with the Ballon d’Or Awards, which came to be then known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or awards. However, following the end of their six-year partnership with French Football (Ballon d’Or awards organizers), FIFA re-introduced their own award with a refurbished name.
While some have tasted victory at the Best FIFA Men’s Player Award, many have come extremely close and were unlucky not to win it. There have been some controversial decisions and allegations following some award ceremonies. Here, we take a look at the top 10 players who were unlucky and did not win the Best FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award.
10. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid)
The Frenchman had a fantastic individual season in 2016 for Atletico Madrid and to be fair, he was quite close to reaching the heights of Ronaldo and Messi.
Griezmann was an absolute goalscoring machine for Los Rojiblancos that season. He guided Atletico Madrid to the UEFA Champions League (UCL) final, where they lost to Real Madrid, just like they did in 2014.
In the European Championships, France were the favourites to lift the title, with Griezmann being a key player in the tournament. He was excellent throughout and single-handedly won the game against Germany with a brace. Unfortunately, once again, his side lost the final, after Eder scored the winning goal in extra-time. Griezmann won the Euros’ Golden Boot with six goals and two assists in seven appearances.
Overall, he amassed 32 goals and seven assists in all competitions. He was surely a deserving candidate for The Best FIFA Player of the Year Award.
9. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Kevin De Bruyne has performed consistently in the Premier League with Manchester City. He has made it to the FIFPRO XI this season as well. De Bruyne has also been in the nominees for The Best FIFA Players Award twice in the past.
Over the years, he has produced amazing performances for Manchester City. He has scored 21 Premier League goals from outside the box since joining City. This is the joint-most by any City player and he is now tied with Sergio Aguero. De Bruyne has amassed a staggering G/A of 128 in 196 appearances in the Premier League. In his best individual season, he had 13 goals and 20 assists in the Premier League. Moreover, his style of play and brilliant passes has given him an excellent reputation.
8. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
Harry Kane is just 28 and is already considered one of the best Premier League strikers. He has already helped Tottenham Hotspur to two major finals. Unfortunately, Spurs lost in both the UCL final and the Carabao Cup. However, Harry Kane has proven his individual brilliance in each season and is also amongst the best of players to have never won The Best FIFA Players Award.
The England international has a G/A of 205 in 263 appearances. Kane won the Golden Boot last season, after scoring 23 goals. What is more impressive is that he is tied with the legendary Thierry Henry and Alan Shearer for the record. They are the only players to win the award thrice. Kane is also currently England’s top scorer and their most prolific striker.
7. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Kante has displayed consistently that he has excellent stamina and work-rate. Over the years, his game has blossomed as he has harnessed his raw potential to become one of the best midfielders. Kante has been nominated for The Best FIFA Players Award before as well.
His best season was last time out when Chelsea won the Champions League. Kante was excellent throughout the campaign, especially in the UCL. He produced quality performances against Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and had an exceptional outing in the final as well. His defensive work-rate and crucial tackles against Manchester City in the showpiece helped Chelsea clinch the title.
6. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
The youngster broke onto the scene when AS Monaco beat Manchester City in March 2017. Paris Saint Germain then bought Kylian Mbappe and he has since been booming for the French outfit.
In Ligue 1, he has 165 G/A in as many appearances. Though the French league is a bit easy in comparison to others, Mbappe has performed in the Champions League as well. He has 31 goals and 23 assists in 51 appearances in the competition.
Just recently, Mbappe along with Benzema, scored in the Nations League final to help France beat Spain and lift the title. The youngster has been unlucky previously, but is surely on his path to win The Best FIFA Men’s Player of the Year Award.
5. Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)
The German goalkeeper broke onto the scene in 2006 for Schalke and Bayern Munich immediately recognized the talent in him. In 2020, when Bayern won the Champions League, he was a key player throughout the tournament, making crucial saves. Whilst Lewandowski won The Best FIFA Men’s Player Award, Neuer won the Best FIFA Goalkeeper.
He is a record-breaker in the Bundesliga and has won eight titles with Bayern. Moreover, he has the most clean-sheets in the history of the league (200). Neuer has not only played well domestically, but even in the Champions League. He has guided his team to two UCL titles and has saved a total of 11 shots in the Champions League final.
4. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool)
Virgil van Dijk has performed consistently over the years for Liverpool and helped them lift the Premier League title and the UCL in 2019. The league title win was their first in 30 years.
In 2019, he had one of the best seasons for a defender and was very close to winning the Ballon d’Or. However, he came second to Lionel Messi. What’s more astounding is that the centre-back has never lost a league game at Anfield in four years.
3. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
The silent hero for Real Madrid. Even when Ronaldo was there, Karim Benzema was performing quite well for Los Blancos. After the Portuguese’s departure, he has been performing even better. Benzema has 113 G/A in 136 appearances. He has 72 UCL goals as of now and is fourth in the list of all-time top goalscorers.
He returned for France at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and then scored in the UEFA Nations League final and semi-finals to help France lift the title.
2. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
The Egyptian has produced double-digit goalscoring numbers consecutively for four seasons. He is at his prime in the current season. Salah is a natural goalscorer with exquisite dribbling as well.
He has scored 16 goals and has nine assists in 20 appearances this season in the Premier League. Salah also has wonderful solo goals against Manchester City and Watford. He was nominated for The Best FIFA Players Award and came third in the latest year.
1. Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid)
Suarez is one of the best strikers of this generation. He scored 31 goals and had 17 assists in 33 appearances in the Premier League. Suarez is the only striker to win the European Golden Boot twice in a dominant Messi-Ronaldo era.
Despite leaving Barcelona, he is still performing for Atletico Madrid. In his first season there, he scored 21 league goals as the Los Rojiblancos won the league title. Throughout his career, he has 433 goals and 240 assists in 681 appearances.