Why Lionel Messi was not at The Best FIFA Football Awards 2023 to collect his trophy

  • Messi was crowned The Best FIFA Men's Player 2023 on Monday 15 January
  • The Inter Miami forward did not make the trip to London
  • Thierry Henry collected the award on Messi's behalf
Lionel Messi was not present for the awards ceremony
Lionel Messi was not present for the awards ceremony / Anadolu/GettyImages

Football's individual award ceremonies have followed a similar pattern over the past decade and a half; forced on-stage banter interspersed by interminably long highlight reels followed by Lionel Messi claiming top billing in an outrageous outfit.

FIFA's offering at The Best Awards on Monday night had everything apart from Messi's garish tuxedo. The Argentine World Cup winner was announced as The Best FIFA Men's Player 2023, wriggling his way ahead of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, but did not make the trip. Messi didn't even bother sending a video acceptance message.

In place of another Messi fashion statement, the always-slick Thierry Henry filled in. Grabbing the award that his former Barcelona teammate had won, Henry jokingly explained that it was best his co-host Reshmin Chowdhury not go too near the silverware as she was a Tottenham Hotspur fan. "You don't usually get your hands on the trophy," Arsenal's all-time top scorer jibed.

Here's why Messi didn't have his hands on the trophy on Monday.

Where were The Best FIFA Football Awards 2023?

Lauren James, Aitana Bonmati, Keira Walsh, Ella Toone, Alessia Russo, Lucy Bronze, Alex Greenwood, Olga Carmona, Mary Earps, Pep Guardiola, Sarina Wiegman, Hugo Daniel Iniguez, Ruben Dias, Kyle Walker, Guilherme Madruga
Lionel Messi didn't get on stage with the other winners on the night / Kate Green/GettyImages

The great and good of the footballing world clustered around London's Hammersmith Apollo for the award ceremony on Monday 15 January.

Aitana Bonmati flew in from Barcelona to be recognised as The Best FIFA Women's Player but most of the other prize winners were based in England. Manchester City's Pep Guardiola and Ederson had as far to travel as Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps. Lionesses manager Sarina Wiegman was also present to accept her gong.

Puskas Award winner Guilherme Madruga made the trek from Brazil to receive his personal trophy, which was presented to him by one of the great-granddaughters of Ferenc Puskas, the award's inspiration. The Cuiaba Esporte Clube player has some freedom of movement given it's currently the Brazilian off-season, but Messi is thought to have taken a stricter approach to his training regime.

Why was Lionel Messi not at The Best FIFA Football Awards 2023 to collect his trophy?

Messi's last competitive appearance for club or country was a World Cup qualifier for Argentina against Brazil back in November. Since then, the 36-year-old has enjoyed some time away from the pitch to rest and recharge.

The final two months of Messi's debut season at Inter Miami were derailed by injury. After a breathless run to Leagues Cup glory, Messi had to sit out six MLS matches as September bled into October - Miami won just once in his absence and missed out on the play-offs.

With pre-season training already underway, Messi did not want to disrupt his preparations with a trip to London, according to the Argentine's biographer, Guillem Balague.

A flight from Miami to London takes more than eight hours and Messi's camp judged any excursion would cost the player at least three days of training. Miami have a friendly scheduled against FC Dallas next week before the Riyadh Season Cup kicks off, with games against Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal and Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr on the horizon.