FIFA The Best: Who will be crowned the world's best player?
In a world where thousands of professional football matches occur every year, contested by thousands of observable top-level players, they all have one shared desire: to be the best.
'Who is the best player in the world?' is an article headline or social media video title we're now very accustomed to seeing. It is also the most common debate among fans. FIFA, the governing body of football, holds a yearly award ceremony to announce precisely this. The 'FIFA The Best' awards will take place in February, and with eight illustrious categories to choose from, it should settle the debate for 2023 at least.
Fans, international players, international managers, and media representatives vote for winners in the following categories:
- The Best Women's Player
- The Best Men's Player
- The Best Women's Goalkeeper
- The Best Men's Goalkeeper
- The Best Women's Coach
- The Best Men's Coach
- The Puskas Goal of the Year
- FIFA Fan Award
Beth Mead and Keira Walsh lead the nominations in the women's best player category on the back of their Euro 2022 win. These are the favourites, but many other talented players are on the list.
Barcelona's Alexia Putellas won the Ballon d'Or in 2022 but spent most of the year on the sidelines with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, which shifts the focus back onto the England players, who won their nation's first major international football trophy since 1966.
In the men's best player category, the votes will be heavily influenced by last year's World Cup in Qatar. There are 14 names on the list, although many are struggling to see past one man as the winner.
"I think that not many people are looking beyond Lionel Messi because of the fact that he became Argentina's all-time top scorer in World Cup history in Qatar." revealed Mark Scott, commentator on the UEFA Champions League.
"He broke the FIFA World Cup appearance record, and of course, his side did the small achievement of winning the World Cup as well."
Other honourable mentions would have to go to Messi's PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe, who scored a hattrick in the World Cup final despite losing the game. Alongside Mbappe is Erling Haaland, who has set an unprecedented goalscoring pace in the Premier League since moving to Manchester City in the summer, scoring 25 goals in just 19 games. Achraf Hakimi also earned a nomination for his heroics in leading Morocco to a World Cup semi-final, a historic achievement for his country and Africa.
As far as coaches are concerned, much like his Argentina counterpart, Lionel Scaloni finds himself as the front-runner for coaching the national team to their third World Cup. His lack of experience in a managerial role makes his achievement all the more impressive, but also Morocco's manager Walid Regruagi, for the same reasons as Achraf Hakimi, is on the shortlist for the player's award.
Sarina Wiegman has been nominated in the best women's coach category due to her impressive unbeaten record since becoming the England manager is the reason she's most likely to pick up the award.
"For me, it is not even a question," Emma Sanders explained.
"There's no point in having any of the other nominees. I mean, it's got to be Wiegman. She's not lost a single game. She took the team to the top of the World Cup qualifying group without even conceding a goal. She won the Euros and has been unbeaten for over two years. This is probably the easiest award I think could be given."
There has also been a World Cup dominance in the Fan of the Year awards this year. A nomination was given to Japanese fans for their etiquette in Qatar, helping to clean up stadiums after games. Argentina's fans could make it a clean sweep for their country with their undying support for the eventual winners being recognised by FIFA. And on an individual level, Abdullah Al Salmi from Saudi Arabia has been nominated for his efforts after walking from his home country to Qatar to see his team play in the World Cup. There is no doubt that all three fan nominations are deserving of the award.
The FIFA 2023 The Best awards will be held on February 27th. Until then, the debate continues.