Flames coach Meke Mwase, captain John Lanjesi and sports journalist Peter Kanjere have differed on Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi emerging the best men’s player ahead of other favourites such as Christiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk.
The three Malawians represented the country as voters of the 2019 Fifa Player of the Year and were among 500 individuals worldwide that had that privilege.
According to the voting breakdown The Nation has seen, Mwase opted for Liverpool and Senegal forward Sadio Mane while Lanjesi’s first choice was Liverpool and Netherlands defender Frenkie De Jong. Kanjere, The Daily Times assistant editor, went for the eventual winner Messi.
Mwase and Lanjesi said their preferences deserved the award because they helped Liverpool win the Champions League and have been exceptional at international level.
However, Kanjere claimed Messi’s individual brilliance was out of this world although he did not achieve the European glory with his club and did little to help his national team.
Mwase said: “I do not know why many voters opted for Messi and not Mane, who was outstanding in scoring goals and providing assists that helped Liverpool win Uefa Champions League.”
On his part, Lanjesi blamed the voters for ignoring the impact of defenders such as De Jong and Van Dijk, both of whom play for Liverpool and Netherlands.
“I am a defender and I know we make a big impact for our teams to win, but we are rarely recognised. We need to get rid of the mentality that only strikers or attackers deserve such coveted awards,” he said.
But Kanjere said the Fifa Player of the Year Award is all about recognising individual brilliance and not achievements as is the case with other honours.
“You cannot ignore the fact that Messi was the best player just [despite not winning] any big title with his teams because sometimes the individual brilliance of such players is undermined by lack of enough support from teammates. For Messi, it was not a joke to score 54 goals in 58 games for both club and country in the 2018/19 season,” he said. Thirty-two-year-old Messi, who has so far been voted the world’s best for the sixth time— (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019)—helped Barcelona win the Spanish La Liga title and reach the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League.