Luka Modrić – The ‘New’ Best in the World4 min read
In the last ten years or so, football fans around the globe have seen two forces rise, two forces that have almost, by themselves taken world football to another level. Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, who is better, who among the two is G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time) are some questions football fanatics around the globe argue over. But, 2018 saw another player, somehow, grab the limelight, validating himself by winning the 2018 Ballon d’Or. 2018 was the year that saw and showcased the brilliance of Croatian Luka Modrić.
Barcelona playmaker Lionel Messi won the Ballon d’Or four times in a row from 2009 to 2012 and then later in 2015 to set the record for 5 awards, later to be joined by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017 where he won his fifth award. No other player has won the award in the 10 years these two individuals dominated, and this has been a topic of discussion over the years, until the 2018 edition of the awards which happened in Paris on December 3, where Croatian captain and Real Madrid number 10 – Luka Modrić overtook Messi and Ronaldo with 753 points, making up for 26.1% of the overall vote. Previous winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi finished second and fifth, respectively.
The 33-year-old Real Madrid midfielder has been a fan favourite this year. Luka Modrić played a major role in his club’s record breaking third consecutive UEFA Champions League title, and captained his national side to the FIFA World Cup Final in the summer, where they lost to France. He was also awarded the FIFA Golden Ball and UEFA Men’s Player of the Year for his notable performance in the World Cup and Champions League, respectively. He moved a step closer to winning the Ballon d’Or when he won the FIFA World Player of the Year in September.
Croatia, with a population of 4 million people, is the smallest country to make it to a World Cup final in 68 years, and were ranked 20th in FIFA World Rankings before the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. However, this European side had more to offer, with the likes of notable players like Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic, alongside “The Balkan Cruyff” Luka Modrić.
Modrić was born into a family of refugees who fled from Serbian aggressors during the time of the Bosnian war. He grew up in Zadar, witnessing the horrors of the Croatian war. As a child, he was rejected as a football player due to his physique. His prodigious career started with his move to the Croatian football club Dinamo Zagreb at the age of 16, from where he moved to English club Tottenham Hotspur. In 2012, Real Madrid signed the midfielder for a transfer fee of £30 million and a five year contract. However, he struggled to fit in Jose Mourinho’s squad due to the presence of Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil in the midfield. He was also forced to play out of position several times, and was unofficially titled as Real Madrid’s worst signing of the season, a mistake made by club president Florentino Perez. A change in manager in the next season brought about a change in Luka’s fortune, as he was frequently paired with Xabi Alonso in the midfield in the starting lineup.
The Ballon d’Or is an annual football award presented by French sports magazine France Football. The Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year are the most distinguished awards in football for individual achievement. France Football introduced the Ballon d’Or in 1956, and has continued the award till date, except for a brief period between 2010 and 2015, where it was temporarily merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year and was distributed as FIFA Ballon d’Or.
France Football’s editorial team are responsible for shortlisting 30 names for the Ballon d’Or. After the candidates are nominated, a jury consisting of reputed journalists from all around the world are tasked with voting for the players of their choice from among the nominees. There are a total of 176 voters, one per country. Each of the voters are allowed to select their top 5 players from the 30-man shortlist, with 6 points going to first place, 4 to second, 3 to third, 2 to fourth and 1 to fifth.
Featured Image Courtesy: Twitter/@mohamedalaa6694
Edited by: Tarush Dhume