Former Real Madrid legends Roberto Carlos and Michel Salgado have slammed Lionel Messi and other Barcelona stars for snubbing the Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony on Monday.
Messi is a finalist for the Best FIFA Men’s Player Award but is expected to lose out to Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, as he did in the Ballon d’Or last month.
He had been expected to attend the gala event along with teammates Luis Suraez, Neymar and Gerard Pique, who had been named in the FIFA team of the year.
But hours before the ceremony, Barcelona officials announced that the players would remain in Spain to prepare for the second leg of their Copa del Rey match against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.
Roberto Carlos, who was in Zurich for the awards ceremony, said: “I am sad and disappointed that Leo and his teammates have not come. They have many great footballers and all of us would have liked to see them attend.
“We all wanted to see Messi, the other big players and the coach of Barcelona here. It’s a FIFA prize. FIFA is the highest authority in football. So, everyone should be here.”
In place of the players, Barcelona sent president Josep Maria Bartomeu, vice president Jordi Mestre, technical secretary Robert Fernandez and a number of other board members to Switzerland.
Real Madrid are in the midst of a 39-game unbeaten streak, equalling Barcelona’s record for Spanish clubs on Saturday. Madrid also won the FIFA Club World Cup in December and currently lead Barcelona by five points in La Liga with a game in hand.
Former Madrid right-back Salgado suggested the club’s recent fortunes played a part in Barcelona’s decision to skip the ceremony.
“Real Madrid are currently the best team in the world so maybe this has affected the decision of the Barcelona players,” Salgado said. “Barcelona are wrong for not sending their best players.
“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.”
Roberto Carlos said Ronaldo has previously appeared at award ceremonies regardless of the expected outcome.
“Cristiano has learned the importance of this and I think Leo also needs to learn that he must be here. This has to change,” he said.
“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.”
Madrid play at Sevilla on Thursday — a day later than Barcelona — and have a 3-0 advantage from the opening leg of their Copa del Rey tie.
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