There has been a pretty strong backlash to the Barcelona players’ decision not to attend FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony in Zurich.
Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez, all of whom were included in the FIFPro World11, decided to stay in Barcelona.
Barcelona released a statement claiming the four players were prioritising Wednesday’s Copa del Rey clash against Athletic Bilbao, although the Daily Mail believe Messi simply didn’t want to be a part of the Cristiano Ronaldo show.
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However, Barcelona’s players have been criticised for their no-show. Roberto Carlos said, per ESPN: “We all wanted to see Messi, the other big players and the coach of Barcelona here. It's a FIFA prize. FIFA is the highest authority in football. So, everyone should be here."
Meanwhile, Diego Maradona admitted he was “disappointed” with Messi.
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According to Marca, Real Madrid’s club directors considered Messi and co’s non-attendance as a “betrayal of sorts”.
However, Los Blancos may want to aim their dismay at Barcelona chiefs instead of the players, if Andres Iniesta is to be believed.
Iniesta phoned Real Madrid's players
Marca also claim that the Barcelona maestro personally phoned Madrid’s players to apologise for not attending the ceremony. Iniesta explained that the decision had nothing to do with himself, Messi, Pique or Suarez, but with the Blaugrana’s hierarchy.
Ronaldo: I wish Messi was there
Sergio Ramos was the least critical of Barcelona’s players while Luka Modric refused to discuss it. Cristiano Ronaldo, however, brought it up in his acceptance speech.
"I would have liked it if Messi were here, as well as the rest of the Barcelona players," Ronaldo said, per Marca.
"But they have a cup game, so it's perfectly understandable [why they're not here]."
Ronaldo followed up his Ballon d’Or success by claiming the main prize at FIFA’s inaugural event. It’s all the Portuguese star deserves after winning the Champions League, European Championship and Club World Cup in 2016.
"It's nice to win this trophy as it's presented for the first time," he said.
"I dedicate it to my Real Madrid teammates, to my national teammates and to my coaches.
"It was a magnificent year, both on an individual and a collective level, so I'm very grateful to everyone."