Luka Mo­dric

Croa­tia and Real Madrid mid­fielder is UEFA’s player of the sea­son

World Soccer - - Contents - Gavin Hamil­ton

“It’s been the best year of my ca­reer. I’m just en­joy­ing the mo­ment. It’s all a bit of a blur”

I t’s been quite a year for Luka Mo­dric. Af­ter win­ning a third suc­ces­sive Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle with Real Madrid and play­ing a cru­cial role in Croa­tia’s pas­sage to the World Cup Fi­nal, the mid­fielder was voted UEFA’s Player of the Year, ahead of Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Mo­hamed Salah.

Mo­dric re­ceived 313 points in a poll of jour­nal­ists and coaches – 90 more than Ron­aldo and 199 ahead of Salah.

Sur­pris­ingly, Lionel Messi was not among the fi­nal three, de­spite Span­ish Liga suc­cess with Barcelona. But Mo­dric’s per­for­mances at the World Cup, where he was voted the tour­na­ment’s best player, proved to be crit­i­cal.

Mo­dric’s vic­tory broke the stran­gle­hold on in­di­vid­ual awards that Messi and Ron­aldo have held over the past decade.

UEFA had ex­pected Ron­aldo to at­tend the cer­e­mony, fly­ing in by he­li­copter from his new home in the hills out­side Turin. But when he learned ear­lier in the day that he had not won he opted to stay away. Ron­aldo’s agent Jorge Mendes only learned of his client’s hissy fit dur­ing the cer­e­mony at Monaco’s Grimaldi Fo­rum, prompt­ing the Por­tuguese en­tourage to leave half­way through in protest.

Mendes later claimed that Mo­dric’s vic­tory was “ridicu­lous… shame­ful…the win­ner is not in doubt, as Ron­aldo is the best in his po­si­tion”.

Ju­ven­tus di­rec­tor Giuseppe Marotta also com­plained that Ron­aldo de­served the award for his suc­cess in lead­ing Real Madrid to an­other Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle, his fourth in five years.

“The no-show was a per­sonal de­ci­sion of Cris­tiano, which we want to re­spect,” said Marotta. “Our crit­i­cism con­cerns a deep bit­ter­ness for this de­ci­sion be­cause the award refers to the Cham­pi­ons League and not to the World Cup and I be­lieve that Cris­tiano Ron­aldo has given the best emo­tions of the last edi­tion and also fan­tas­tic goals.”

But Marotta was wrong to claim that the award did not cover per­for­mances in the World Cup. Votes were cast in late July and early Au­gust, with vot­ers en­cour­aged to con­sider events in the en­tire 2017-18 sea­son, in­clud­ing the World Cup, where Ron­aldo’s Por­tu­gal lost to Uruguay in the last 16.

The bit­ter­ness from Ron­aldo’s camp was in stark con­trast to Mo­dric, who ac­cepted his award with hu­mil­ity.

“Ev­ery­thing has hap­pened so fast over the past few months,” he said. “Af­ter win­ning the Cham­pi­ons League with Real Madrid, then achiev­ing the his­toric re­sult with Croa­tia, and now this.

“It’s amaz­ing. It’s been the best year of

my ca­reer. I’m just en­joy­ing the mo­ment. It’s all a bit of a blur.

“Maybe in the fu­ture I’ll be more aware of what has hap­pened. I never like talk about my­self, I’d rather let oth­ers do that.”

No men­tion was made of Mo­dric’s le­gal trou­bles at home, where he has been charged with per­jury in re­la­tion to the trial of for­mer Di­namo Za­greb di­rec­tor Zdravko Mamic.

It would seem that the Croa­t­ian’s col­lec­tion of in­di­vid­ual awards is only likely to in­crease over the com­ing months. Ron­aldo may not like it, but 2018 has been the year of Luka Mo­dric.

No-show...on learn­ing that he hadn’t won, Cris­tiano Ron­aldo didn’t turn up

awards... with UeFa Player of the Year and UeFa Mid­fielder of the sea­son tro­phies

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