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Why Lionel Messi beat Erling Haaland to Fifa Best Award thanks to little-known rule

Lionel Messi took home his third Fifa Best Men’s Player award, despite finishing level on points with Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, thanks to a little-known rule.

The Argentine became the first player to win the award on three separate occasions after he was announced as the 2023 winner at The Best Fifa Football Awards 2023 ceremony in London.

The forward has made a big impact since his move to the MLS, winning the Leagues Cup - Inter Miami’s first trophy - in September. However, it was Haaland who was considered the heavy favourite after the City striker notched up a remarkable 36 goals in his maiden Premier League season and helped guide Pep Guardiola’s side to a famous treble.

The vote, which sees national team captains, coaches and journalists rank their top three, was tight and eventually saw Messi and Haaland tied on 48 points each, with Kylian Mbappe in third on 35 points. In order to determine the winner, the committee had to use the little-known article 12 within the rulebook to split the two frontrunners.

Lionel Messi was not in London to collect his award (Getty Images)
Lionel Messi was not in London to collect his award (Getty Images)

The article states: “In the event of a tie, the player, coach or goalkeeper with the highest number of “five-point” scores from the votes cast by the nominee’s own group of voters shall be the winner of the relevant Award.”

Therefore, with Messi receiving more votes from national team captains, it was the legendary Argentine who received the nod. The 36-year-old was not in London to collect his award, with former Barcelona team-mate Thierry Henry accepting it on his behalf.

In addition to winning the Men’s Player award, Messi was also included in the FIFA FIFPRO Men’s World XI, which also featured Haaland as well as his City team-mates Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, John Stones, Kyle Walker and Ruben Dias.

Elsewhere at the awards ceremony, Pep Guardiola was named best men’s coach while England boss Sarina Wiegman was named best women’s coach for the second successive year.

The best women’s player award went to Spain’s World Cup winner Aitana Bonmati ahead of compatriot Jenni Hermoso and Real Madrid’s 18-year-old Colombia forward Linda Caicedo.