March 2 – Austria captain David Alaba says it was a team decision for him to vote for Lionel Messi over his own Real Madrid team-mate Karim Benzema as men’s player of the year at the recent Best FIFA Awards.
Alaba received racist abuse by purported Real Madrid supporters for not choosing Benzema.
Messi won the accolade on Monday ahead of France forwards Kylian Mbappe and Benzema in third.
“The Austrian national team vote for this award as a team, not me alone,” explained Alaba. “Everyone in the team council is able to vote and that’s how it’s decided.”
FIFA has now released a list of who voted for whom at the awards. Alaba voted for Benzema second and Mbappe third, prompting the hashtag #AlabaOut to trend on social media.
Benzema and Alaba have played together at Real since the latter joined from Bayern Munich in 2021.
“Everyone knows, especially Karim, how much I admire him and his performances and I have often said that for me he is the best striker in the world, and that is still the case. Without doubt,” said Alaba.
The award was voted for by national team coaches and captains as well as journalists and fans across the world.
But Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic decided against taking part in the vote, saying his side deserve more respect from FIFA.
Captain Luka Modric came fourth in the vote but was the only player from Croatia on the list of 14 candidates, despite their reaching the World Cup semi-finals last year.
“If English, Brazilian, Spanish, German or Italian players and coaches had the kind of results that we do, they’d be on the shortlist for every possible football award,” declared Dalic.
“I want more respect for us, for our national team, for our players, and for myself, because with two medals, we more than deserve it.”
Dalic suggested Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic and RB Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol should have been on the list.
“FIFA should promote the fact that a tiny country such as Croatia can play against the biggest nations in the world because that’s the most beautiful message for the whole football world.”
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