MONACO (AFP) - Arsene Wenger received the Laureus Lifetime Achievement award on Monday (Feb 18) at a lavish ceremony but it was the glowing tribute from the unlikeliest of sources Jose Mourinho that caught the eye.
The 69-year-old Frenchman won on the back of his revolutionising English football, especially in the first part of his over two decades in charge of Premier League club Arsenal.
As for the main prizes, Novak Djokovic's stupendous comeback from injury last year, which saw him win two Grand Slam titles, earned him the Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award.
The 31-year-old Serb - who added the Australian Open in January to the Wimbledon and US Open crowns he won in 2018 after returning from elbow surgery - won for a fourth time, beating the likes of France's World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe and NBA superstar LeBron James.
Iconic American gymnast Simone Biles won Sportswoman of the Year title for a second time, on the back of the 21-year-old's historic achievement last year in adding a fourth all-around world championship to her full to bursting medals cabinet.
'Real respect' always there
For years, veteran former Gunners boss Wenger and Mourinho had clashed often on and off the touchline.
However, Mourinho - sacked by Manchester United in December, paid handsome tribute to Wenger via a video.
The volatile Portuguese, who had two spells at Chelsea and then the turbulent one at United among his many clubs, acknowledged there had been moments when they had been at odds with each other.
It boiled over when Wenger pushed Mourinho on the touchline during the latter's second period in charge of Chelsea and Mourinho made some barbed remarks about the studious Frenchman, commenting he was a "voyeur" and a "specialist in failure".
"There were some episodes along the road," said the 56-year-old.
"I can only speak by myself. I really enjoyed the competition. But the real respect is always there.
"He (Wenger) made lots of history in that football club.
"One of the best football managers in the history of football."
Wenger, who was virtually unknown but proved an inspirational choice by then Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein when he was hired in 1996, accrued among other trophies three Premier League titles and lifted the FA Cup seven times.
However, perhaps his greatest achievement was the title winning side of the 2003-04 campaign who went through the league season unbeaten.
"The nickname is there - the Invincibles," said Mourinho.
"Amazing. A coaching philosophy, the almost perfect team."
Tennis had a golden night as women's world No. 1 Naomi Osaka - who like Djokovic won the Australian Open to add to her breakthrough Grand Slam success at the US Open - became the first Japanese winner of a Laureus award, the 21-year-old taking the World Breakthrough of the Year gong.
American golfing great Tiger Woods was given the Comeback of the Year award.
He rewarded for his return from years in the wilderness due to injury and personal problems to winning the Tour Championship and going close to adding to his 14 Major titles in the British Open and the PGA Championship.
Mbappe may have missed out on the main individual award but he along with his World Cup winning team-mates collected the team of the year prize.
Manager Didier Deschamps - who also captained France to the 1998 World Cup triumph - accepted the award with some members of his backroom staff.
China's Xia Boyu's extraordinary achievement in climbing Everest last May, four decades after losing both legs to frostbite in a previous attempt to conquer it, won the Sporting Moment of the Year, which is voted on by the public.
Laureus is a global movement that aims to use the power of sport to tackle social challenges in the world.