Tuesday 27 June 2017

Ronaldo is FIFA's No 1 - but not in O'Neill's eyes

Cristiano Ronaldo with partner Georgina Rodriguez and his son Cristiano Jr. Photo: Getty
Cristiano Ronaldo with partner Georgina Rodriguez and his son Cristiano Jr. Photo: Getty
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill voted for World Cup rival Gareth Bale as his FIFA Player of the Year and overlooked eventual winner Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

FIFA made the votes of international managers and captains public ahead of last night's ceremony and O'Neill went against the grain by excluding the big two.

Instead, he opted for Real Madrid star Bale as his top pick ahead of a year when two games against top seeds Wales could have a major impact on Ireland's World Cup qualifying prospects.

Bale is a major doubt for the first meeting in March due to an ankle problem; he was an inspirational figure in Wales' run to the semi-finals of the European Championships that were eventually won by Ronaldo's Portugal.

O'Neill picked veteran Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in second place. He spoke of his respect for the Juventus stopper when he congratulated O'Neill after Ireland's famous defeat of Italy last June that put his team into the last 16 of the Euros.

His third choice was N'Golo Kante, a key figure in Leicester's Premier League title win who has carried that magic touch into the Chelsea side that is currently in a commanding position at the top of the table.

Ireland captain Seamus Coleman chose Ronaldo as his main man ahead of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Irish Independent

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