The Catalan club’s refusal to send players to Zurich and constant officiating complaints are reminiscent of when the Portuguese coached Real
“Messi and I are here every year,” said Cristiano Ronaldo at the gala ahead of the FIFA Ballon d’Or last January. But not this time, because Barcelona have snubbed The Best, the revamped award ceremony taking place in Zurich – just like Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid did in 2012.
The excuse back then was that Madrid needed to prepare for a Copa del Rey clash against Malaga, which was widely criticised. But five years on, Barca have done exactly the same.
“With the aim of prioritising the match against Athletic on Wednesday, the club has decided not to send the players to the gala for The Best organised by FIFA this afternoon,” a statement said on Monday morning.
Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi were all included in the FIFPro XI, but none were present to take part in the ceremony, while the Argentine was also absent from the press conference ahead of the major prize, for which he was shortlisted along with Ronaldo and Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann.
Goal understands Messi was keen to attend, but the decision was made by the club for the players to stay at home and it is not a popular one with FIFA, keen to promote their new award after cutting ties with France Football and losing out on the Ballon d’Or.
It is also a seemingly petulant call by Barca after the Catalan club learned that Messi would not be winning the individual prize. Even with a game on Wednesday, Barca’s players could easily have flown out to Zurich for a couple of hours.
“It’s a little strange and it’s sad that Barcelona are not here at a gala of this importance,” Roberto Carlos said. “The most fun thing at an event like this one is to see the players. Of course I wanted to see Messi, Barcelona’s coach too. They have to change this idea… this is a FIFA award and they are the biggest organisation in football.”
Even Ronaldo got in a little dig at his Clasico rivals, saying in his acceptance speech on Monday: “I’m sorry that some people from Barcelona aren’t going to be here with us, but that’s understandable.”
The Catalans’ decision to snub the event even drew criticism from Barcelona-based newspaper Sport. “Barca cannot imitate the worst of Mourinho’s Madrid,” one of their headlines ran in an editorial on Monday.
Perhaps that came from a surprising source, but there is some truth in it. And this latest snub comes after the constant complaining about referees from Pique, who recently claimed that officials in Spain favour Real Madrid and aimed an aggressive gesture at LFP president Javier Tebas after Barca’s 1-1 draw at Villarreal on Sunday.
It is true that Barca could and probably should have had a penalty in that match, but Javier Mascherano also handled in his own area afterwards, while Luis Suarez got away with two aggressive incidents that were worthy of red cards if the referee had spotted them.
Barcelona should be better than all this. Gone are the days when the Catalans saw themselves as inferior to Real and so often played the victim card. After their countless trophies in recent years, they are a match for any club in the world and need to act like it.
Because if it was unacceptable for Mourinho’s Madrid to snub FIFA galas and rant at referees, then Barca too should know better.