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Messi Wins Fifa Men’s Player of the Year Award as Valverde Dismisses Barcelona Crisis Talk

Lionel Messi won the Fifa Men’s Player of the Year award on Monday with Megan Rapinoe bagging the women’s prize to cap a historic year for the United States’ World Cup icon.

Barcelona striker Messi’s victory in Milan was a surprise as he edged out Virgil Van Dijk, who won the Uefa player’s award last month after helping Liverpool to the Champions League last season.

Juventus’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo had also been shortlisted for the award, but did not attend the ceremony as he lost out to his rival in the famous La Scala opera house.

Both Messi, 32, and Van Dijk, 28, are now in the running for the coveted Ballon d’Or which will be announced on December 2.

Rapinoe beat fellow World Cup winner Alex Morgan and England’s Lucy Bronze to the women’s title, with US coach Jill Ellis winning women’s coaching award.

The 34-year-old Rapinoe won the Golden Boot for being top scorer and the Golden Ball for the best player at the World Cup, and also became the face of the tournament for her outspoken views on US president Donald Trump.

Messi was top scorer in the Champions League last season with 12 goals before Barcelona were dumped out by Liverpool in the semifinals, Barca throwing away a three-goal first-leg lead with a humiliating 4-0 defeat at Anfield.

The Argentine also won the European Golden Shoe after scoring 36 goals, won La Liga title with Barcelona and helped Argentina to bronze at 2019 Copa America.

Van Dijk had been bidding to become just the second defender – after Italian Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 – to be recognised by Fifa as the world’s best player.

And he missed out on completing a treble for Liverpool with manager Jurgen Klopp winning the men’s coach of the year award and Alisson Becker the goalkeeper prize.

Klopp won the Champions League with Liverpool ahead of two other Premier League coaches – Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino, who reached the European final, and Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola.

“It is great, nobody expected this 20, 10, five, four years ago that I would be standing here,” said the 52-year-old German who joined Liverpool in 2015.

However, Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde says he is not worried about his future despite the club’s poor start to the season, dismissing suggestions the Spanish champions are in crisis.

The Catalans are eighth in La Liga with seven points from five games after losing 2-0 at Granada on Saturday.

Barca  have failed to win any of their last eight competitive games away from Camp Nou across all competitions.

“Coaches always have something on the line in every game, that’s nothing new,” Valverde told a news conference on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Villarreal.

“Crisis? The world of football is like this, you’re in crisis every three days and then you come out of it the same way, that what’s we’ve got to try and do.

“The only way to calm everything down is to get six points from the (next) two games.

“In previous years we’ve always been consistent and had an advantage on the rest but this time we’ve not started well.”

Forward Ousmane Dembele returns to the squad to face Villarreal after a hamstring injury, while midfielder Ivan Rakitic has been left out.

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