Nothing is known about João Pedro Cavaco Cancelo's abilities as a secret agent. However, the new FC Bayern winger returned to Munich from his evening assignment at the FIFA World Players' Gala, which oscillated between shine and patina, with rather worrying news for his coach Julian Nagelsmann.
Lionel Messi, crowned world footballer for the seventh and possibly last time, and his club colleague Kylian Mbappé harmonize wonderfully - on the pitch and also on the glamor floor.
There was enough chattering and laughing. Cancelo stood a little apart when he was honored as a member of the 2022 World XI and looked over at the PSG trio of Messi, Mbappé and Achraf Hakimi. Statements about the difficult task in the round of 16 second leg of the Champions League next Wednesday (9 p.m. / DAZN) in the Allianz Arena could not be elicited from winner Messi and finalist Mbappé in their gala home game. But the non-verbal signals in the Salle Pleyel not far from the triumphal arch were clearly interpretable. There are two willing to work together.
Cancelo only Munich
Cancelo lacked any Bavarian support, he was the only Munich representative - and that was for his services for Manchester City and Portugal last year. No Manuel Neuer. No Thomas Muller. And (yet) no Jamal Musiala. As a result of the botched World Cup, German football has had a break from broadcasting at the international celebrations.
Unlike Messi. FIFA boss Gianni Infantino formally celebrated the star cult of the 35-year-old at his gala on an Argentinian evening. For Infantino it was a logical consequence of the World Cup in Qatar, which he himself declared to be the maximum success. Practically all the important prizes went to representatives of the Albiceleste. Coach Lionel Scaloni and goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez were also voted the best in their categories.
In Madrid, the Real-friendly sheet "As" foamed. "Real Madrid have won the Champions League, the Spanish league, the European and the Spanish Super Cup. And this without having the best player, the best coach or the best goalkeeper of 2022. At least that's what FIFA says organized The Best gala said. Benzema, Ancelotti and Courtois were nominated but went away empty-handed," wrote the sports newspaper.
The stars of the royals probably suspected that they would only be accessories to Infantino's Messi show and stayed away from the artificially pimped hustle and bustle. The Madrid media reaction was the only excitement. The international response was sober. Messi, who else?
The Argentinian world champion himself more or less endured the fuss. Half a dozen companions, tall in stature and muscular, literally pushed him over the green felt carpet after the gala act. No defender would have let the Argentinian chase him on the pitch in such scurrying steps. In front a bodyguard with a suitcase. Safely stored inside: the trophy for what Infantino called "officially the best player in the world" with the emphasis on "official".
Messi then said a few more friendly words in front of the cameras chosen by his companions ("It's an honor") and disappeared into the Parisian night. In the background, fans shouted his name and sang the Argentinian anthems that defined the football rhythm in Qatar a good two months ago. This groupie chorus lent some residual legitimacy to the event. The hall had the charm of a family reunion with aging uncles - Roberto Carlos and Alessandro del Piero, for example.
Messi future open
Emotionally opened with a posthumous honor for Pelé, some observers got the feeling that it might have been the last time that the 35-year-old Argentinian Messi was chosen as the best of the guild. Long-term rival Cristiano Ronaldo is already in football exile in Saudi Arabia. His name no longer appeared in the FIFA circle.
Where is Messi headed in the summer? Back to Barcelona? In the USA? Or will he stay in Paris? Where are epochal football deeds still possible? Such questions about the future faded away in the Paris night. Next week in Munich, Messi wants to give a first sporting answer with Mbappé. Cancelo will try to prevent it.