A former Camp Nou team-mate of the Argentine superstar admits that he was surprised to see an iconic figure left off FIFA’s latest award list
Real Madrid star Luka Modric may be “great” and the latest recipient of FIFA’s The Best Award, but Lionel Messi remains the finest player on the planet in the eyes of Barcelona legend Carles Puyol.
The mercurial Argentine, who has won the Ballon d’Or on five occasions across a remarkable career, was surprisingly left off the latest shortlist for a prestigious global prize.
He was overlooked in favour of Modric, eternal rival Cristiano Ronalo – now of Juventus – and Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah.
Modric, who tasted Champions League glory with Real last season before helping Croatia to the World Cup final, ultimately took the top prize, but Puyol feels the very best remains at Camp Nou.
A former team-mate of Messi told reporters: “It’s weird Leo is not on the list. I don’t have any doubt that Leo is the best in the world.
“You never know what they analyse for these individual awards. We must respect it, but football people know absolutely who is the best.
“He [Modric] is a great player who had a very good season but for me the best is Messi.
“Congratulations for Modric. Leo can’t always win. Otherwise, we should create an award for him and another for the rest.”
Messi has remained a talismanic presence for Barca this season, taking in his 700th appearance for the club in midweek, but he has been powerless to prevent them dropping five points in their last two outings.
“Barcelona are expected to win every week and if they lose once then you criticise,” said Puyol.
“They have to fight for all titles, but if you have to choose between the Champions League and Copa del Rey then you choose the Champions League.
“Above all though is La Liga, which is very important.”
Barca secured domestic dominance again last season, with Puyol taking a sly dig at Clasico foes Real and their decision to prioritise European glory.
He added: “Barcelona have always fought for everything.
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“If Barcelona had a season like Real Madrid last year, they would kill us.
“They focused on the Champions League, they played heads or tails but at Barcelona you cannot do that, we have another mentality.”