WORLD football chief Sepp Blatter has admitted that even he was surprised by the much-criticised decision to award Argentina’s Lionel Messi the Golden Ball for the World Cup’s best player.
Messi finished with four goals – two behind top scorer James Rodriguez, of Colombia – but did not register at all during the knockout stages as his team ended runners-up in Brazil on Sunday.
“I was a little bit surprised when I saw Messi coming up to collect the best player of the competition,” said Blatter, president of governing body Fifa.
Former Argentina captain and coach Diego Maradona was among those to criticise Messi’s award, which was decided by a 13-man panel including former New Zealand manager Ricki Herbert.
“I would give heaven and earth to Leo, but when marketing people want him to win something he didn’t [deserve to] win, it is unfair,” said Maradona, who was named best player in 1986. “I could see he didn’t want to go and collect it.”
The fallout from the World Cup continued last night when Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari left his post, having been humiliated 7-1 by eventual winners Germany in the semi-finals.
The British executive of a Swiss company being investigated over alleged illegal ticket sales, meanwhile, gave himself up to a Rio de Janeiro court yesterday. Ray Whelan, who works for Fifa partner Match, has denied any wrongdoing, as has the firm.