Lionel Messi suffered quite a pair of blows Monday. On the same day Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, his longtime rival, was given a major FIFA award at the expense of the Argentinean superstar, a bronze statue of Messi in Buenos Aires was discovered to have been cut in half.
The statue of Lionel Messi in Buenos Aires has somehow been cut in half by vandals pic.twitter.com/JFVIWhEeYO
— Peter Coates (@golazoargentino) January 9, 2017
Just the bottom was left by as-yet-unknown vandals, who made off with the stature’s torso, arms and head. It was installed in June, amid much angst in Argentina over Messi’s decision to stop playing for the national team, one he reversed a few months later.
“The statue of Lionel Messi fell victim to an act of vandalism that left the footballer’s sculpture without its top half,” Buenos Aires’s municipal government said in a statement. “Its repair is now being worked on.”
The statue was placed on the city’s Paseo de la Gloria (“walkway of glory”), which includes similar tributes to other Argentinean sports stars such as Manu Ginobili, Gabriela Sabatini and Guillermo Vilas. A statue of Ronaldo that was installed in his home town of Maderia in 2014 was vandalized in January 2014, with Messi’s name being written in red paint on it.
Meanwhile, the 31-year-old Ronaldo was named Best FIFA Men’s Player of 2016, beating Messi and France’s Antoine Griezmann on the three-man shortlist in a ceremony in Zurich. American Carli Lloyd was given the Best FIFA Women’s Player Award.
The honor is Ronaldo’s fourth FIFA player of the year award and first since France Football’s Ballon d’Or award ended its six-year association with FIFA to name the world’s best soccer player. Ronaldo, a star forward for Real Madrid, won his fourth Ballon d’Or in December.
Delighted to win The Best FIFA award. Wouldn't be possible without my teammates, coaches and you who support me every day. Thanks everyone! pic.twitter.com/1E1VkaYbTu
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) January 9, 2017
“I’d like to thank my team, national team, Real Madrid, my trainer, my family that came here, my son, my brothers,” Ronaldo said at the ceremony (via FIFA.com). “2016 was the best year of my career, the trophy shows that people aren’t blind and watch the games. With everything I won with my national team and club, with great individual performance, I can’t forget this incredible year. Thanks for voting for me.”
Ronaldo has now been named the FIFA Player of the Year four times (2008, 2013, 2014 and 2016), trailing only Messi’s five (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015).
.@Cristiano Ronaldo wins FIFA Men's Player of the Year.
He won EURO 2016 title with Portugal and UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid. pic.twitter.com/d6yKva5g0j
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 9, 2017
Ronaldo earned 34.54 percent of the total voting points of the 23-candidate ballot, while Messi finished second with 26.42 percent. Third-place Griezmann received 7.53 percent.
The FIFA award is calculated from votes by national team captains, managers, journalists and fans voting online for a player’s performance from Nov. 20, 2015 to Nov. 22, 2016.
According to ESPN, Ronaldo scored 61 goals and registered 20 assists in 60 games for his club and for the Portugal national team (48 goals in 47 games for Real Madrid; 13 in 13 games for Portugal) during that span. He was also crowned a champion with Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League and led Portugal to its first European Championship title.
Like Ronaldo, Lloyd has now picked up multiple FIFA player of the year honors after winning it in 2015. She won 20.68 percent of the total votes, beating Brazil’s Marta (16.6 percent) and Germany’s Melanie Behringer (12.34 percent).
The honor even caught Lloyd by surprise.
“I honestly wasn’t expecting this,” she said (via FIFA.com). “I wouldn’t be standing up here without the help of teammates, coaching staff and support staff. I want to thank Jill Ellis for believing in me and really helping to evolve my game. I am someone who wants to continue to get better, as if I’m better, my team is better.”
The bad news for Messi continued as he took criticism for not showing up to awards ceremony. “I’m disappointed with Messi, from watching television at home you cannot fight anything or anyone – here you can fight,” none other than Argentinean soccer icon Diego Maradona said (via goal.com).
Even Ronaldo got in a bit of a dig as he accepted his award. “I’m sorry that some people from Barcelona aren’t here with us and that’s understandable but thank you to everyone,” he said. “Thank you for what you’ve given me.”