Lionel Messi is once again among the final three contenders to claim FIFA’s Best Award. The Argentine, widely considered the best footballer on the planet, could be eclipsed by the appearance of a 18-year-old who is likely to come away with more silverware than the Barcelona man.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr and Lionel Messi will all walk down the red carpet of London’s Palladium theatre on Monday. In the front row, sitting alongside the superstars, will be teenager Deyna Castellanos.
The Venezuelan is nominated alongside Lieke Martens of the Netherlands and American Carli Lloyd as the world’s best female footballer, despite not playing in a professional league. She is yet to feature in an under-20s international tournament, never mind a senior one.
The 18-year-old, currently in the second year of a four-year course in Communications, was as surprised as anyone to be up for the award. Playing for Florida State, she is bound to the strict rules of college sport governing body, the NCAA.
Her numbers in front of goal are impressive: In 2014, as a 14-year-old, she was joint top goalscorer at the Under-17 World Cup. She topped the scoring charts again at the 2014 Youth Olympics and at the under-17 South American Championships in 2016, before scoring another five at the Under-17 World Cup 12 months ago. She has notched 14 in 15 games so far for Florida State this season and six in nine for Santa Clarita Blue Heat, the Californian pro-am outfit she turned out for in the off-season.
One of her goals is even up for FIFA’s Puskas Award, meaning she could come away with two pieces of silverware on Monday. Having only lifted the Copa del Rey this season, Messi will struggle to finish above arch-nemesis Ronaldo, while Castellanos is flying high despite being still in school. We will find out shortly if she is FIFA’S Best.