ZURICH: Barcelona, apparently aware that Lionel Messi will lose his FIFA world best player crown to arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo tonight, will send only club officials to the world federation awards gala in Zurich.

The tetchy relationship between clubs and superstar heroes over their alternative claim to the award has long been a source of diplomatic difficulty.

Leo Messi . . . happy FIFA winner last year

This year it has been enhanced by Barcelona’s anger that Real Madrid ‘escaped’ with a one-window transfers ban over the signing of minors when the Catalans had suffered a full year prohibition.

A club statement said: “With the aim of prioritising preparations for Wednesday’s game against Athletic Club, FC Barcelona have decided that the players recognised in the Best FIFA Awards, which takes place on Monday in Zurich, will not be travelling to Switzerland for the ceremony,


“The club’s delegation is led by president Josep Maria Bartomeu, sporting vice president Jordi Mestre, director Silvio Elías, ceo Òscar Grau, Albert Soler (director of professional sports), Robert Fernández (first team technical secretary) and Raúl Sanllehí (director of football).

“FC Barcelona thank FIFA, its president Gianni Infantino and the executive structure for the organisation’s help in being able to take part in today’s Gala. The Club expresses their recognition and support for the Best FIFA Awards.”

Barcelona won the Spanish league and cup last season but a 1-1 draw with Villarreal on Sunday saw them slip five five points behind leaders Madrid (who have a game in hand); in the cup they must recover from a 2-1 defeat in Bilbao last Thursday.