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