Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has backed his players' non-attendance at Monday's The Best FIFA Football Awards, and insisted that it was their decision.
Barcelona "prioritising preparations" for Copa game
Jordi Alba, Javier Mascherano, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Andrés Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic, Neymar, Luis Suárez and Leo Messi were all absent despite being nominees.
All nine were contenders for the FIFA FIFPro World11, while Messi was also one of the three finalists in the race to be named The Best FIFA Men's Player.
In a statement, Barça had said they were "prioritising preparations" for Wednesday's Copa del Rey clash with Athletic Club, an explanation echoed by Iniesta in a video appearance during the gala, which was held in Zurich.
"The decision is their personal choice" - Luis Enrique
Speaking ahead of his side's Copa last-16 second leg at home to Los Leones, Luis Enrique explained: "The decision to go to the awards or not is their personal choice and, as their coach, I can only support them."
The players have received criticism from figures in the game for their no-show in Switzerland, with Diego Maradona saying he was "disappointed" with Messi, and Roberto Carlos branding their absence "strange".
But with the holders 2-1 down from Thursday's first leg in Bilbao, the Barça coach said he was grateful to them for putting their cup commitments first: "The sporting situation is above all others - although I would have backed any decision."