Cristiano Ronaldo missed out on the vote for UEFA’s fans’ team of the year – until they sensationally altered the formation to accommodate the Juventus and Portugal star, according to reports.
On Wednesday, UEFA revealed the fan-voted XI in a bizarre and rarely used 4-2-4 formation, with a frontline of Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Sadio Mane and Ronaldo.
However, the Daily Mail has now revealed that the reason behind the odd formation was to ensure Ronaldo was not omitted, after panic at the results from some high-ranking officials.
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In previous years, it has been the fans who have chosen the formation, with it being a 4-3-3 in five of the last six years with the exception being a 4-4-2 in 2017.
Of the four forwards officially included, Ronaldo came fourth in the voting, meaning that a midfielder – reportedly Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante – was omitted as a result.
The official XI announced by UEFA included five Liverpool players (Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson) as well as Dutch duo Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong.
Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne made the cut alongside De Jong in midfield, where Kante should also have featured had UEFA stuck to the original formation.
The Daily Mail added the initial announcement of the team was supposed to happen last week, only for it to be delayed due to the panic over the decision.
A source told the newspaper: “This is really not good. It is effectively vote rigging. Such is Ronaldo’s popularity at senior level within the organisation, alarm bells sounded when he did not make the cut and, as a result, the formation was changed. It makes you wonder what else they get up to.”
A UEFA spokesman however suggested the formation change was due to Portugal winning the Nations League final last year.
“The formation for this year’s team of the year was chosen to reflect the votes of the fans in parallel with the players’ achievements in UEFA competitions,” they said.
“As a result, there are five UEFA Champions League winners and four UEFA Nations League finalists (including one winner). The formation changes on a regular basis and this year is no exception.”