Femi Solaja with agency report
It was a paradigm shift last night as Croatia and Real Madrid midfielder, Luka Modric was named The Best Footballer Award winner yesterday in London. The feat ended Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s decade-long domination of football’s individual awards.
The Croatian midfielder starred for both club and country as Madrid won a third straight Champions League, and he inspired Croatia to reach the World Cup final for the first time.
Modric’s success means Ronaldo remains tied with Messi having won FIFA’s award in different guises five times each.
At 33, Croatia’s run to the final was the culmination of a brilliant career for Modric that had often been overshadowed by Ronaldo’s goalscoring in their time together in the Spanish capital, before the Portuguese left for Juventus in July.
Modric scored twice and also netted in penalty shootout wins over Denmark and Russia, but it was his playmaking ability that caught the eye in winning the Golden Ball for the best player at the World Cup.
“It was an unbelievable season, the best season in my life,” said Modric.
“I’m still not realising how good a year I had collectively, individually, and I’m very proud for everything I achieved this year and it will be remembered forever.”
For a sixth straight season, Ronaldo was the Champions League’s top scorer with 15 goals and also scored four times at the World Cup, including a hat-trick against Spain in a thrilling 3-3 draw to open Portugal’s campaign.
However, Portugal’s last 16 exit to Uruguay in Russia and Ronaldo’s failure to score in the semifinals or final of the Champions League opened the door for Modric.
Interestingly, neither Ronaldo or Messi attended the glitzy ceremony in London with both in action for Juventus and Barcelona respectively on Sunday night.
For the first time in 12 years, Messi was not among the finalists with third place going to Salah for his incredible 44-goal debut season with Liverpool that carried the Reds to the Champions League final.
For their respective snub of the ceremony, notable football legends like Fabio Capello, Diego Forlan and Davor Suker were among those who slammed the duo for their the skipping out FIFA’s The Best Awards.
“The absence of Ronaldo and Messi? It is a lack of respect, for the players, for FIFA and for the world of football,” Capello told TVE ahead of the ceremony.
“It is possible that they won too much and do not like to lose. In life you have to be good when you win and when you lose.”
Former Uruguay and Manchester United forward Diego Forlan was also critical, citing what he sees as a lack of respect for the event and their status as role models.
“It’s a pity. Messi attended the gala last year and he didn’t win,” said Forlan. “It’s a pity if it happens the same with Ronaldo than in the UEFA gala.
“It’s an event of every player and it’s important to be here. No matter who wins. A player has to show with his attitude and actions, because they are a model for the world”.
Suker, who finished behind Zinedine Zidane and Brazilian star Ronaldo in the 1998 FIFA World Player of the Year voting, also called the duo our for a lack of sportsmanship.
“You have to be a gentleman when you win, but also when you lose,” said the former Croatian star.
France’s World Cup-winning coach Didier Deschamps won the best coach of the year prize in recognition for his work in leading Les Bleus to success in Russia.
Deschamps, who became just the third man to win the World Cup as a player and coach, beat off competition from Dalic and his former France teammate Zinedine Zidane, who won a third consecutive Champions League title with Real Madrid before resigning in June.
Thibaut Courtois won the best goalkeeper award for helping Belgium reach the World Cup semifinals as well as the FA Cup with Chelsea before a summer move to Madrid.
Brazil’s Marta was crowned best women’s player for a record sixth time for her role in winning the Copa America to beat out Lyon duo Ada Hegerberg and Dzsenifer Marozsan.
Lyon boss Reynald Pedros did win the award for best women’s coach, though, after winning the Champions League with the French giants.
ALL THE WINNERS
Best FIFA Men’s Player: Luka Modric
Best FIFA Men’s Coach: Didier Deschamps
Best FIFA Women’s Player: Marta
Best FIFA Women’s Coach: Reynald Pedros
Best FIFA Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
Puskas Award: Mohammed Salah Vs Everton