The global football community was left in astonishment as Lionel Messi clinched the FIFA Footballer of the Year at "The Best" awards on Monday, securing his eighth career win and second consecutive title. The surprise stemmed from expectations that Erling Haaland, who achieved a remarkable season, winning the treble with Manchester City and emerging as Europe's top scorer with 48 goals in the 2022/23 season, would claim the coveted award. Haaland's native Norway erupted in displeasure, labeling Messi's victory as "theft" and expressing resentment over the perceived snub of Haaland's outstanding achievements.
In the aftermath of Messi's win, reactions in the English media were divergent. The Manchester Evening News highlighted the outrage among City fans, deeming Messi's selection as "bizarre" and emphasizing Haaland's favoritism among supporters. The Daily Mail, in contrast, succinctly acknowledged Messi's eighth triumph, stating that he remains the best despite the expectations surrounding Haaland's outstanding year.
The Spanish maestro, Messi, responded vehemently to the criticism, describing the decision as a "disgrace to football" and expressing disbelief that anyone genuinely considered him the best player globally in the past year.
However, there were celebratory sentiments in Argentina, where Messi had recently led the national team to a World Cup victory after a 36-year wait. Journalist Claudio Mauri, while admitting he did not vote for Messi in the top spot, acknowledged Messi's stature as possibly the best player ever but remarked that in this case, he "won from the couch."
The immediate aftermath of Messi's win captured the reaction of Alfie Haaland, Erling's father, whose raised eyebrow provided a subtle yet notable response to the unexpected outcome.