FIFA engaged in what is probably the most transparent act it regularly does as the world governing body for the sport of soccer: Revealing the voting for its annual player awards.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Carli Lloyd, Claudio Ranieri and Silvia Neid were big winners at the annual FIFA awards gala, but the real intrigue came immediately afterwards.
In keeping with recent custom, FIFA engaged in what is probably the most transparent act it regularly does as the world governing body for the sport of soccer: It reveals who voted for whom for each of its major year-end awards.
For player of the year and manager of the year awards, votes were tallied from each FIFA nation's national team captain, its manager and a single representative from that country's media. Here, in no particular order, are some interesting notes on how some of those people voted.
How the Americans voted
After barely two months on the job, Bruce Arena handled voting as U.S. coach, casting his first-place vote for coach of the year with Claudio Ranieri, followed by Fernando Santos and Zinedine Zidane. His captain, Michael Bradley, meanwhile, had almost an entirely different and La Liga-only list: Luis Enrique in first, followed by Diego Simeone and Zidane. Both voted Ronaldo for best player.
On the women's side, none of the players selected by eventual winner Carli Lloyd even made it as finalists. The U.S. captain selected Swedish captain (and non-coward) Lotta Schelin in first, followed by France's Camille Abily and Japan's Saki Kumagai.
U.S. coach Jill Ellis had no problem sticking with her own, giving Lloyd a first-place vote. Lloyd returned the favor for Ellis' coach of the year nomination.
As manager of the Philippines national team, former U.S. international Thomas Dooley got to vote as well. His choices differed significantly from the norm. Dooley was one of a small handful of voters to select Toni Kroos as best player, followed by Manuel Neuer in second, then Ronaldo. For manager, Dooley put Jurgen Klopp first, Simeone second, and Guardiola third.
As is now tradition, Portugal captain Ronaldo voted entirely for his Real Madrid teammates for player of the year honors, selecting Gareth Bale first, Luka Modric second, and Sergio Ramos third.
Naturally, Argentina captain Messi responded with an all-Barça ballot: Luis Suarez first, Neymar second, Andres Iniesta third.
For coach of the year, Ronaldo selected his Portugal boss Fernando Santos first, his Real Madrid boss Zidane second, and Ranieri third. Messi selected his Barcelona boss Enrique first, his old Barcelona boss Guardiola second, and his La Liga nemesis Simeone third. No love for former Argentina coach Tata Martino from Messi.
There was plenty of favoritism to be found outside of the game's top two players. Manuel Neuer's "best player" ballot consisted of fellow German Toni Kroos in first, another German Mesut Özil in second, and Bayern Munich teammate Robert Lewandowski in third.
Odds and ends
• I present to you an impossible pop quiz: Wales Manager Chris Coleman received three first-place votes for manager of the year. One came from his Wales team captain Ashley Williams. What countries did the other two come from?
Like I said: impossible. The answer is Austria (coach Marcel Koller) and Myanmar (team captain Yan Aung Kyaw)
• The following coaches and players gave Leicester's Riyad Mahrez a first-place vote for player of the year: Palestine captain Abdellatef Bahdari, Palestine coach Abdel Nasser Barakat, and Qatar head coach Jorge Fossati.
• British Virgin Islands coach Avondale Wiliams didn’t offer a second-place vote. He voted Lionel Messi in first, nobody, then Paul Pogba.
• Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi gave a first-place vote to Alex Sanchez, then listed nobody in second or third.
• The Turks & Caicos Islands love Jamie Vardy. Who knew?! Captain Billy Forbes and coach Oliver Smith provided two of Vardy's three first-place votes. The other came from Chinese Taipei coach Kuroda Kazuo (who also put Leicester's N'Golo Kante second, followed by Ronaldo in third).
• A surprising amount of love for Gianluigi Buffon: Jordan captain Amer Shafi, Italy coach Giampiero Ventura, Malta manager Pietro Ghedin, Bulgaria captain Dyakov Svetoslav, Morocco captain Mehdi Benatia, Somalia captain Ali Hassan, Albania coach Giovanni De Biasi, and San Marino coach Manzaroli Pierangelo all gave the Italian netminder a first-place vote.
• Belgium and Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne got one first-place vote. It came from, of all places, New Zealand. Captain Chris Wood's ballot went: De Bruyne, Messi, Griezmann.