Belfast Telegraph

Global players' poll snubs Premier League-based talent

No Premier League-based players have been selected for the 2016 World XI to be announced at this evening's inaugural The Best FIFA Awards ceremony in Zurich.

Organised by FIFPro, the body that represents players' associations from 69 countries, the team is decided by professional footballers, with 26,516 voting this year.

The absence of any Premier League talent in the team comes despite English and Welsh clubs providing the most votes, a record 1,884.

Manchester United's Paul Pogba, however, missed out on one of the three midfield berths by an agonising two votes, the smallest margin in the award's 12-year history - a count FIFPro verified with a Dutch-based public notary.

The Frenchman, the world's most expensive player, made the team in 2015 for his all-action displays for Juventus.

Premier League-based players have made the team 24 times, a distant second to the 80 selections for the Spanish top flight, with LaLiga expected to dominate the 2016 selection, which will be announced at 5.35pm GMT at Zurich's TPC Studios and broadcast on FIFA's website and social media channels.

Argentinian winger Angel di Maria was chosen for the 2014 team and Brazilian defender David Luiz made the 2013 side but both played in two countries in those years.

The last two English-based players to make the team having spent the entire year at a Premier League club were Manchester United duo Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic in 2011.

Rooney, who equalled Sir Bobby Charlton's Manchester United goalscoring record at the weekend, is the last Englishman to be honoured in this way by his global peers but failed to make the 55-strong shortlist this year for the first time.

The only Englishman on the list was Jamie Vardy, who finished 13th out of 15 forwards in the voting. Wales and Real Madrid star Gareth Bale was the only other British player in the reckoning, coming seventh in the same category.

In total, 15 Premier League players were on the shortlist and, if only English votes counted, Manchester City's Kevin de Bruyne would have made the final team but the wider electorate had him as the ninth-best midfielder last season.

These results underline the remarkable contrast between the Premier League's global popularity, as evidenced by its huge broadcasting revenues, and the apparent quality gap with Spain, whose clubs have dominated European club competition in recent years.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have confirmed Lionel Messi will not be attending the ceremony in Switzerland on Monday evening, increasing the expectations Cristiano Ronaldo will claim the Men's Player prize.

Argentine playmaker Messi was on a three-man shortlist for the accolade along with Ronaldo and Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann.

However, Barcelona issued a statement on Monday morning in which the LaLiga club said the players nominated would be instead focussing on preparations for the upcoming Copa del Rey tie against Atletico at the Nou Camp on Wednesday, with officials set to represent the Spanish giants.

"With the aim of prioritising preparations for Wednesday's game against Athletic Club, FC Barcelona have decided that the players recognised in the Gala The Best FIFA Awards, which takes place on Monday in Zurich, will not be travelling to Switzerland for the ceremony," the statement read.

"The club's delegation is led by president Josep Maria Bartomeu, sporting vice president Jordi Mestre, director Silvio Elías, CEO Oscar Grau, Albert Soler (director of professional sports), Robert Fernandez (first-team technical secretary) and Raul Sanllehi (director of football).

"FC Barcelona thank FIFA, its president Gianni Infantino and the executive structure for the organisation's help in being able to take part in today's Gala.

"The club expresses their recognition and support for the Best FIFA Awards."

Ronaldo will be hoping to add to last month's Ballon d'Or triumph in recognition of his fine 2016.

The attacker helped Real Madrid to Champions League glory and Portugal to the European Championship, seeing him edge out Barcelona rival Messi and Griezmann in the Ballon d'Or running.

Although Ronaldo topped the poll, it was Messi who found himself the most mentioned of the trio on Twitter during 2016.

Some 51 million Tweets mentioned the Barcelona number 10, while there were 42 million for Ronaldo and 6.5 million for France forward Griezmann.

Having split with France Football magazine, governing body FIFA introduced the Best FIFA Football Awards.

The inaugural edition of the awards will be held in Zurich's TPC studio.

As well as the FIFA FIFPro World11 being announced, Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri is shortlisted for the managerial award, along with Portugal's Fernando Santos and Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

On the shortlist for the FIFA Women's Player Award are Germany's Melanie Behringer, Carli Lloyd of the United States and Brazilian Marta.

Liverpool could be recognised in the new FIFA Fan Award after their fans and Borussia Dortmund's bellowed out 'You'll Never Walk Alone' ahead of April's Europa League tie at Anfield.

The chorus of solidarity, a day before the 27th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, is a candidate along with ADO Den Haag, whose supporters threw soft toys for Feyenoord fans to donate to charity, and the Icelandic support at Euro 2016.

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