Real Madrid midfielder and Croatia captain Modric, 33, capped off an exceptional 2018 by claiming the Ballon d’Or in Paris on Monday.
Barcelona great Messi and Juventus superstar Ronaldo had dominated the individual award, winning the honour five times apiece over 10 years.
However, Modric ended their decade-long duopoly on the prize following Croatia’s run to the World Cup final and Madrid’s third successive Champions League crown.
Basking the best player of the tournament award in Russia after leading his country to football’s highest podium, you will espouse the fact that it was a year to remember for the diminutive midfielder.
In 2010, Wesley Sneijder came close to interrupting Ronaldo-Messi’s dominance, but it never happened – something quite inconceivable – despite the Dutchman bagging a treble for the world-conquering Inter Milan side and making an appearance in the World Cup final (which Netherlands ultimately lost to Spain). With this past, it is logical to question Modric’s winning rights of the prestigious award.
Perhaps, this is why Luka Modric himself had to say his Ballon d’Or win is for all the players who deserved the accolade but missed out because of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s dominance of the coveted award.
“Maybe in the past there are some players that could win the Ballon d’Or, like Xavi, Andres Iniesta or Wesley Sneijder, but it didn’t happen,” Modric said.
He further asserted that; “I am happy that I am the winner but this award is for all these players that probably deserved to win but didn’t.”
Modric – who was also named FIFA’s Best Men’s Player this year – acknowledged Messi and Ronaldo’s quality.
“These two [Ronaldo and Messi] were on some exceptional level for the last 10 years.”
Ronaldo finished second behind his former Real Madrid team-mate while Messi finished fifth overall. The two greats’ underwhelming World Cup campaign in Russia threw off the balance of their chances of claiming the accolade. Ronaldo’s Portugal went down to Uruguay in the knockout stage – just as Messi’s Argentina were outclassed by eventual winners France. A World Cup semi-final or final appearance would have made Ronaldo an irresistible challenger, considering the fact that he enjoyed same fruitful season at Real Madrid (winning third successive Champions League trophy) alongside Modric.
Griezmann believes he should have won – or “what else I have to do, I do not know”
Reacting to Monday night’s Ballon d’ Or miss out, Atletico Madrid and France star Antoine Griezmann revealed he was frustrated having won two bits of silverware in 2018, but still only finished third in the voting.
Griezmann finished third in the balloting behind winner Luka Modric and runner-up Cristiano Ronaldo for the 2018 award.
This comes off a year that saw Griezmann win silverware twice, first with Atletico Madrid in the Europa League in May and then with France in the World Cup.
The forward would then seal his club’s victory in the tournament with a brace in the final – a 3-0 victory over Marseille.
Griezmann then scored four goals and added two assists for France in the 2018 World Cup, including a goal in the final against Modric and Croatia, winning the bronze ball as he helped guide the nation to their second-ever triumph in the tournament.
And Griezmann lamented that he was unable to turn that success on the field into a complete success in the Ballon d’Or, as he was left wondering what else he could have done to clinch the award.
“I won an Europa League, a World Cup – what else I have to do, I do not know,” furious Griezmann noted.
While Griezmann’s frustrations are understandable, he needs to invest on consistency – tapping from Ronaldo, Messi and Modric’s inspiration. The Croat’s Ballon d’ Or triumph definitely was not just as a result of a brilliant calendar year alone, but other success he has enjoyed in recent times. The whole world was watching while he was bagging the UCL trophy and he only needed a Russia showpiece to make himself an irresistible choice.
After all, Modric’s Real Madrid team-mate and France defender Raphael Varane lifted both the Champions League and the World Cup in 2018 – only the fourth man in history to win both titles in the same year – yet he didn’t even make the top three.
Unless Griezmann proves Atletico’s hero in an unlikely Champions League triumph in 2019 – albeit they do have the added incentive and potential benefit of home advantage should they reach the final – it’s hard to see the 27-year-old ranking any higher in 12 months’ time.
Weighing other options – or a case for the future
With Ronaldo-Messi’s dominance finally on a shore, there will be greater expectations for the likes of; Hazard, Salah, Neymar and Mbappe in the coming years.
Mohamed Salah, who only managed sixth place – despite breaking the goals record for a single Premier League season (32) and netting ten times on Liverpool’s surprise run to the Champions League final may return to the podium yet anew, given Liverpool finally end their trophy less run. Since switching Roma for Liverpool in the summer of 2017, the Egyptian ace is yet to bag a domestic cup – something quite pivotal if he will be considered for the prestigious accolade in coming years.
While Neymar has somewhat blighted his career with a move away from Spanish giants Barcelona to PSG, same cannot be said about his French team-mates, Kylian Mbappe. On Monday night, the 19-year-old saw plenty of success on the night, taking home the inaugural Trophee Kopa for the best player under the age of 21. This, actually wouldn’t take the world by surprise given the young Frenchman staggering exploits in Russia – ultimately bagging the second best player of the tournament and just right behind Modric. At 19 years, Mbappe has plenty promising years ahead and you should not be taken aback if he scoops the award in 2 years from now.
ALSO WORTH YOUR TIME: F1 Year in Review: More Dominant Years for the Dux Hamilton?
Eden Hazard, meanwhile, has endured turbulent spells in Chelsea with different managers with unfavourable tactics slowing down the Belgian’s pace in individual recognitions. A certain Antonio Conte and present Man United manager are culprits in this regard. It is no surprise why Hazard has lauded Sarri’s style of play severally. The Italian gaffer’s philosophy gives freedom to him to showcase his dazzling feet and decide a game by himself.
However, given the number of Ballon d’ Or winners Real Madrid have produced over the years, a move to the a bigger stage like the Spanish capital may just be all that is required for Hazard to finally land the Ballon d’ Or.
The fact is, the prestigious award will just get better and better given that there is finally a break in Ronaldo-Messi’s long term dominance. And of course, every Ballon d’ Or potential will aim to up their game. But then, while we long for competitive years ahead, we can only award the credit to Luka Modric for ending Ronaldo-Messi’s duopoly. Yes, Modric is the Victor – yet it is a victory attained by the football world.