Diego Maradona: Giving FIFA award to Ronaldo and not Messi 'hurt my soul'
Argentina great Diego Maradona admitted it "hurt his soul" to hand the Best FIFA Men's Player award to Cristiano Ronaldo and not to compatriot Lionel Messi.
Real Madrid star Ronaldo won the accolade for the second year running on Monday, beating off competition from Barcelona's Messi and Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar.
Maradona and former Brazil international Ronaldo presented the award to Ronaldo at the Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony in London.
"To give the Best [award] to Ronaldo and not be able to give it to Messi hurt my soul," Maradona told TyC Sports.
Maradona, who coached Messi while in charge of Argentina between 2008 and 2010, went on to deny reports that his relationship with the Barca star is a bad one.
Messi has been criticised in the past by some, including by Maradona, for lacking "personality to be a leader" when wearing the Argentina shirt.
Argentina and Messi have lost three straight finals at major competitions in a three-year span -- the 2014 World Cup against Germany, the 2015 Copa America against Chile and the 2016 Copa America Centenario also against Chile.
Maradona, who captained Argentina to the 1986 World Cup, was disappointed Messi did not invite him to his wedding this summer in their homeland, fuelling speculation that the two do not get along.
However, former Napoli hero Maradona was seen affectionately saluting Messi during Monday's ceremony.
"The meeting with Messi was fantastic," Maradona said. "I spoke to him, and the same love and affection was there as always."
Messi, who leads this season's goal-scoring charts in La Liga with 11 goals, was last term's top scorer with 37 in 34 games.
The 30-year-old came to Argentina's rescue by scoring a hat trick in a 3-1 win at Ecuador on Oct. 11 in their final World Cup qualifier to book their place at next year's tournament.
Maradona believes that Messi will continue to delight football fans for many years to come, adding :"He can go on for a long time."
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.