These are not the best of times for Barcelona ace Lionel Messi, as he not only has to watch his eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo win yet another Player of the Year prize, but contend with the scathing remarks of critics who flay him for sitting out the ceremony.
Messi had been nominated for the Best FIFA Men’s Player prize, and was expected to travel with Barca team-mates Luis Suarez, Neymar and Gerard Pique.
But in a swift decision Monday, Barcelona announced that none of their players would attend the gala in Zurich due to the Copa del Rey match against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.
The mercurial Argentine was beaten to the accolade by Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, drawing criticism from compatriot Diego Maradona and Real Madrid legends Roberto Carlos and Michel Salgado, Goal reports.
“I’m disappointed with Messi, from watching television at home you cannot fight anything or anyone – here you can fight,” Maradona, a fierce Messi critic, told TVE.
“I do not know why Barcelona did not come to such an important event. They have priorities and the priority was for Leo not to come. I think coming here [Zurich] they could fight more than they would in Barcelona.”
Madrid legend Roberto Carlos was also irked by Barca’s decision, suggesting Messi could learn humility from Ronaldo.
“I am sad and disappointed that Leo and his team-mates have not come. They have many great footballers and all of us would have liked to see them attend,” Carlos said.
“Cristiano has learned the importance of this and I think Leo also needs to learn that he must be here. This has to change.
“Real Madrid also have a match this week but they are well represented in Zurich. The obligations to win for both clubs are the same.”
Similarly, Salgado stated that he expected better from Barca, one of the biggest clubs in world football.
“Real Madrid are currently the best team in the world so maybe this has affected the decision of the Barcelona players. Barcelona are wrong for not sending their best players,” he said.
“I know that the club has had issues with FIFA in the past but Barcelona needs to understand that FIFA is changing. This is not how you expect one of the world’s biggest clubs to behave.”