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Argentina and Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi poses on stage after receiving the Best FIFA Men’s Player award during the Best FIFA Football Awards 2022 ceremony in Paris. Image Credit: AFP

Paris: David Alaba defended himself on Tuesday as Real Madrid fans turned on him after FIFA listed the Austrian as voting for Lionel Messi over Karim Benzema as player of the year.

Alaba, Benzema’s team-mate at Real, faced abuse from his club’s fans for putting former Barcelona star Messi first in the FIFA Best awards announced Monday.

“The Austrian national team vote for this award as a team, not me alone. Everyone in the team council is able to vote and that’s how it’s decided,” Austria captain Alaba tweeted.

Messi, who led Argentina to victory in the World Cup, romped away with the award on Monday, with Kylian Mbappe of France second and Benzema, a French player who missed the World Cup, a distant third.

FIFA released a list of the top three choices by each national team captain and coach.

Best striker

Alaba was listed as putting Benzema second. “Everyone knows, especially Karim, how much I admire him and his performances,” tweeted Alaba. “I have often said that for me he is the best striker in the world, and that is still the case. Without doubt.”

Another Real Madrid player, Luka Modric, the captain of Croatia, was listed as putting Benzema first and Messi second.

As Argentina captain, Messi was listed as voting for one Paris Saint-Germain team-mate, Neymar, first and another, Mbappe second.

Brazil, captained by former PSG player Thiago Silva, voted for Neymar first, followed by Messi.

France, captained by Tottenham,’s Hugo Lloris, voted for Mbappe followed by another compatriot Benzema, with Messi third.