Barcelona coach Luis Enrique gave his full support Tuesday to his players’ decision not to attend FIFA’s awards ceremony.
Luis Enrique said he was “100 percent behind” the players after they chose to skip Monday’s ceremony in which Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo was named the world’s best player for 2016.
The Barcelona coach said it was “totally” up to the players whether to attend the event in Zurich, and that he would have been OK with any decision made by them.
“As a coach, I can only support their decision, especially because there is this situation of a game, which has to be a priority,” Luis Enrique said.
The club had said that Lionel Messi and his teammates did not travel to Switzerland to prioritize preparations for the team’s home match against Athletic Bilbao in the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. Barcelona, the Copa champion, lost the first leg 2-1.
Messi was runner-up to Ronaldo in the best player award.
Three other Barcelona players were named for the world’s best 11 in a vote organized by the international players’ union FIFPro. The Barcelona players included Andres Iniesta, who pre-recorded a video that was released during the event.
“As captain of Barcelona, we would like to thank FIFA and FIFPro for being awarded these prizes, and we apologize for not being able to attend the ceremony because of a very important game for us this season,” he said. AP
Messi statue in Argentina vandalized
A statue in Buenos Aires of Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi has been vandalized, with the head, torso and arms all being removed — leaving only the legs and a soccer ball on display.
The statue was installed in late June, just shortly after Argentina and Messi lost the final of the Copa America against Chile.
The city government says it is working to reconstruct the statue.
The vandalism took place on Monday, just hours after Cristiano Ronaldo was named FIFA’s best player of the season for the fourth time. Messi, who finished second in the voting, has won the award five times.
The Messi statue is among several others in the area, all of them dedicated to Argentine sports stars. They include a figure of basketball player Manu Ginobili, tennis players Gabriela Sabatini and Guillermo Vilas, Formula One champion Juan Manuel Fangio, and hockey player Luciana Aymar.
Vandals also stole the racket from Sabatini’s statue. AP