Manny Muscat’s scorching strike against Newcastle Jets was awarded the FIFA Puskas Award 2018 as the best goal of the year overnight.
The City defender’s stunning 87th-minute volley – a thunderbolt which sailed past Jets’ keeper Glen Moss to give his side a 2-1 win at McDonald Jones Stadium earlier this season – was announced as the winner by a jury of club and international coaches, media representatives and fans at a ceremony held in Zurich overnight.
The 33-year-old, who has scored just four goals from his 225 appearances in the A-League, is the first player from Australia’s premier domestic competition to have won an award at FIFA’s annual Ballon d’Or Gala awards. He joins Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez, Brazilian striker Neymar, Portugese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic as winners of the highly regarded Puskas Award, named after legendary Hungarian striker Ferenc Puskas.
Ten spectacular goals from around the world were shortlisted for the award, including a spectacular bicycle kick from Torino’s Andrea Belotti, a wonderful run and finish by Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and a ferocious pile-driver by Victor Wanyama of Tottenham Hotspur.
Muscat was presented with the award by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and 2017 Puskas Award winner Olivier Giroud via video link, with the defender currently in Newcastle preparing for City's Round 25 A-League fixture against the Jets.
Commenting on his achievement, Muscat was honoured to be joining a long list of footballing legends to have received the award.
"I'm absolutely delighted and honoured to be receiving the Puskas Award," Muscat said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be receiving this award and I'm extremely grateful to everyone that voted for me.
"More importantly I'd like to thank my teammates for helping make this happen and I hope we can get an important three points against Newcastle tonight."
Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce was full of praise for the unlikely winner.
“Manny doesn’t get the chance to score many goals for us, but when the opportunity arises, he really takes it on," Joyce said.
"He struck the volley beautifully, and, more importantly, it helped us secure three important points. The Club and players are delighted for Manny."
Normally held in January or December, the awards were brought forward due unforeseen scheduling issues around the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which begins in Russia in June.
Muscat will be hoping for a case of deja vu as the defender returns to the scene of his incredible strike when City takes on Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium tonight, kick-off at 5:00pm.
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