The Bayern Munich goal machine avenged missing out on the Ballon d'Or
Less than two months after being snubbed for the Ballon d'Or, football superstar Robert Lewandowski has beaten PSG and Argentina hitman Lionel Messi and Liverpool and Egypt hero Mohamed Salah to the FIFA Men's Player Award 2021.
Poland captain Lewandowski fired a remarkable 69 goals in 69 appearances for his club and national sides across 2021, equaling five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo's best year, in 2013, and beating the next-nearest top scorer, Kylian Mbappe, by 18 goals.
Many of the 33-year-old's admirers felt he should have won the Ballon d'Or ahead of Messi in November 2021, when the Barcelona all-time top scorer was rewarded for winning his first Copa America with his country.
"I feel proud, I feel happiness," said Lewandowski, speaking by video during the ceremony.
"We all work hard to win the games and trophies. It's special to work with all these guys around me. I never dreamed about breaking this record."
Lewandowski paid tribute to legendary Germany striker Gerd Muller, whose record of 40 Bundesliga goals in a season he broke as Bayern won the top-flight title in May 2021.
Bayern mourned Muller's death in August, and Lewandowski said the man responsible for 566 goals in 607 appearances for the club had inspired him.
"To score 41 goals in 29 games - if you'd asked me a few years ago if it's possible, I'd have said it's impossible to score that many goals in the Bundesliga," admitted Lewandowski.
"He did so many records and, for me, that was the next step, to try to break those records."
Messi won the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2009 and the Best FIFA Men's Player in 2019.
The 34-year-old was on typically scintillating form for former club Barca in 2021, although he has struggled to score goals in French top division Ligue 1 since making a shock move to Paris in August.
Messi's record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or win saw Lewandowski finish second ahead of Chelsea's Jorginho and Real Madrid hotshot Karim Benzema.
Salah won FIFA's Puskas Award for best goal in 2018 and has carried on where he left off during the 2021-22 season, hitting the net 16 times in the Premier League - six more than his nearest rival.