The Associated Press 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.
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.
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.
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.
Carli Lloyd of the United States was named the top women’s player for the second straight year, despite a quarterfinal exit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Lloyd got more than 20 percent of the vote and five-time winner Marta of Brazil was runner-up with 16.6 percent.
The women’s coaching prize went to Silvia Neid of Rio gold medalist Germany, giving her a second FIFA award.
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.
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.