KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON —- Luka Modric rang down the curtain on the Ronaldo/Messi awards roadshow on being hailed as world player of the year at FIFA’s The Best awards gala.
The 33-year-old playmaker from Croatia and Real Madrid was thus rewarded appropriately for a remarkable year in which he led his national team to runners-up spot at the World Cup and carried off a fourth Champions League in five years with his club. He was also among the four current Real Madrid players named in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI.
Brazilian veteran Marta was hailed as women’s best player of the year for the sixth time ahead of Germany’s Dzsenifer Marozsan and Norway’s Ada Hegerberg, both from European and French champions Lyon.
Modric topped a poll organised by the world governing body among national team coaches and captains and journalists to head a three-man shortlist ahead of his Portuguese former Madrid club-mate Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal and now Juventus) plus Mohamed Salah (Egypt and Liverpool).
This was the first time in eight years that either Ronaldo or Barcelona’s Argentinian Lionel Messi had not been rewarded by FIFA. It was also the first time since 2006 that Messi had not featured on the three-man FIFA shortlist. The last winning ‘interloper’ was Brazil’s Kaka in 2007.
Modric said: “It’s a great honour and beautiful feeling to stand here with this amazing trophy. This trophy is not just mine but for all my Real Madrid and Croatia team-mates, for all the coaches I have played for – without them this would not be possible. For this trophy I also thank my family without whom I would not be the player and person I am.
“Thanks also to my fans all over the world for the great support and love they have shown me. I would also like to mention my football idols who won the bronze medal at the World Cup in 1998 and who gave us belief we can achieve something great in Russia.
“Hopefully we can be the same for the next generation and show them how dreams can come true.”
Modric, born in Zadar on September 9, 1985, joined Dinamo Zagreb in 2002 and had loan spells at Zrinjski Mostar and Inter Zapresic before returning to base and helping win three consecutive league titles and domestic cups. He has scored 14 goals in 115 internationals in the past 12 years and has been voted Croatia’s Footballer of the Year a record-equalling six times.
In 2008 Modric was sold to England’s Tottenham Hotspur for £16.5m and then on to Real Madrid for £30m in 2012. Since then he has won the Champions League four times and both the FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup on three occasions each as well as the Spanish league and cup and supercup.
The one shadow over his career is a perjury charge currently laid against him in Croatia over evidence he gave in a trial of former Dinamo officials. Modric denies wrongdoing.
As for the women’s award, Brazilian veteran Marta provided 13 goals and six assists in helping Orlando Pride to the NWSL play-offs as well as captaining her country to the Copa America Femenina title.
Didier Deschamps, French World Cup-winning mastermind, picked up the best coach award (ahead of Zinedine Zidane and Croatia’s Zlatko Dalic) with Belgium and Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois voted top goalkeeper (ahead of Denmark’s Kasper Schmeichel and France’s Hugo Lloris).
The women’s football coach award went to another Frenchman in Reynald Pedros (Lyon) ahead of Asako Takakurea (Japan) and Sarah Wiegman (Holland).
Two awards were polled directly among fans from all around the world via FIFA.com. The Puskas Goal of the Year prize was presented by pop star Liam Gallagher to Mo Salah for his fine strike for Liverpool in the Merseyside derby against Everton last December. It was due consolation for missing out on the best player prize.
Slightly embarrassingly for FIFA, the stars questioned in the live show mostly all went for Gareth Bale’s overhead bicycle kick goal for Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League Final.
Peru took the fans’ award for their supporters’ mass partying in Russia after their team’s return to the World Cup finals for the first time in 36 years while the Fair Play prize was earned by German Lennart Thy who missed an important match with VVV Venlo against PSV Eindhoven to donate blood to a leukaemia patient with a DNA match.
Men’s Player of the Year: Luka Modric (Croatia, Real Madrid)
Women’s Player of the Year: Marta (Brazil, Orlando Pride)
Fair Play Award: Lennart Thy (Erzerum/VVV Venlo)
Goalkeeper of the Year: Thibaut Courtois (Belgium, Real Madrid/Chelsea).
Men’s Football Coach of the Year: Didier Deschamps (France).
Women’s football Coach of the Year: Reynald Pedros (Lyon).
Fans of the Year: Peru
Puskas Goal of the Year: Mo Salah (Liverpool v Everton, December 2012).
FIFPro Team of the Year: David De Gea (Manchester United, Spain) – Dani Alves (Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid, France), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid, Spain), Marcelo (Real Madrid, Brazil) – Luka Modric (Real Madrid, Croatia), N’Golo Kante (Chelsea, France) – Eden Hazard (Chelsea, Belgium), Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Argentina), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain, France) – Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Real Madrid, Portugal).