UEFA sensationally changed the formation of their fans’ team of the year to accommodate Cristiano Ronaldo, Sportsmail can reveal.
On Wednesday, European football’s governing body named the XI, which is voted for by supporters.
However, the formation picked was a rarely-used 4-2-4, which led to many puzzled queries.
It can now be disclosed that the reason for doing so was because the Portuguese megastar finished fourth in the forwards category, behind rival Lionel Messi, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
UEFA chiefs were not impressed and so came up with the formation switch to allocate Juventus’s Ronaldo, dropping a midfielder. The unlucky man is understood to have been Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante.
The move raises serious questions over the integrity of the exercise and fans of the Chelsea man, not to mention the player himself, may well be furious.
It is even understood that the initial announcement over the team was meant to be made public last week, but the Ronaldo decision and subsequent manoeuvring prompted a delay.
A source said: ‘This is really not good. It is effectively vote rigging. Such is Ronaldo’s popularity at a 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 spokesperson suggested the move was made thanks to Portugal’s victory in the Nations League final. ‘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.’
Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva, who was in the Portugal team, finished 12th in the poll but it is thought there was a reluctance to drop Kante for someone in the same position.
In previous years fans have chosen the formation. In five of the last six years it has been 4-3-3, with the exception coming in 2017 when 4-4-2 was used.