Luka Modric beats Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo to UEFA Men's Player of the Year award

Simon Peach 30/08/2018
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David Beckham received the UEFA President’s Award as Luka Modric pipped Mohamed Salah to win the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year.

Stars past and present descended on the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on Thursday as Champions League groups and 2017-18 award winners were decided.

Former England captain Beckham was one of those that already knew they would leave with a trophy, having last week been confirmed as winner of the President’s Award.

The ex-Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder was given the award in honour of his medal-laden career and contribution to the game.

Following the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton, Johan Cruyff and Eusebio in picking up the award, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said it “recognises outstanding achievements, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities”.

Fresh from shining at the World Cup, Real Madrid midfielder Modric was named 2017-18 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year.

Having won the midfielder of the year award ahead of Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and team-mate Toni Kroos, he beat fellow nominees Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo to the main award.

Ronaldo won the forward of the year crown, meaning Salah leaves Monaco empty-handed.

If that was not enough, the Liverpool forward was sat in front of Champions League final tormentor Sergio Ramos at the Grimaldi Forum.

Salah was forced off with a shoulder injury sustained by the Spaniard in May’s finale and the Real Madrid man was seen touching him on that shoulder after collecting the defender of the year award.

Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas won the goalkeeper of the season award and Wolsburg’s Pernille Harder was named Women’s Player of the Year.

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Real Madrid's Gareth Bale stars in our European Team of the Week

Tom Biggs 28/08/2018
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Flying start to the season: Gareth Bale.

With all of Europe’s top five leagues now back up and running, and a plethora of top performances, our latest Team of the Week wasn’t an easy one to pick.

From Gareth Bale impressing again with Real Madrid, to a dominant display from Lucas Moura for Tottenham in their victory against Manchester United, we’ve selected the best 11 players from around Europe’s top five divisions.

Without further ado, here’s our latest European Team of the Week…

GK: Rune Jarstein (Hertha Berlin)

Hertha Berlin claimed all three points at home to Nuremberg, thanks in part to the heroics of their goalkeeper, Rune Jarstein. The 33-year-old came up with three big saves for his side as they held on to a 26th-minute lead handed to them by Vedad Ibisevic. After denying Yuya Kubo, Jarstein then spared Karim Rekik’s blushes as he saved Mickael Ishak’s penalty following the defender’s handball in the box.

RB: Valentin Rosier (Dijon)

Dijon’s 4-0 win away to Nice was without question the result of the weekend in France. While fellow defenders Oussama Haddadi and Naif Aguerd both got on the scoresheet, it was right-back Valentin Rosier who stood out. The Frenchman was excellent on the ball, offering a constant threat down the right and completing 93 per cent of his passes. Defensively, Rosier made three tackles, two interceptions and a clearance to keep Nice out.

CB: Willy Boly (Wolves)

Willy Boly was excellent for Wolves in their 1-1 draw with Manchester City

Willy Boly was excellent for Wolves in their 1-1 draw with Manchester City.

While he may have been a touch fortunate to have got himself on the scoresheet in Wolves’ 1-1 draw with Premier League champions Manchester City, Willy Boly was superb defensively for the newly-promoted outfit. Alongside captain Conor Coady, the 27-year-old quelled the attacking threat from City time and time again, making five clearances and two crucial blocks to help Wolves become the first side to take points off Pep Guardiola’s men this season.

CB: Mario Hermoso (Espanyol)

Mario Hermoso was a rock at the heart of Espanyol’s defence as they beat Valencia 2-0 at home in La Liga. The 23-year-old was a dominating presence throughout, keeping the likes of Santi Mina and Michy Batshuayi at bay for long periods. Hermoso made two tackles, two interceptions and five clearances, while he also won three aerial duels. The centre-back was also excellent on the ball, completing over 86 per cent of his 57 passes.

LB: Domenico Criscito (Genoa)

Operating as a left wing-back, Criscito was in superb form for Genoa both defensively and offensively, as they beat Empoli 2-1. The 31-year-old set up both of his side’s goals, with the first an excellent cross that was converted by Krzysztof Piatek, before an incisive pass allowed Christian Kouame to double Genoa’s lead. Defensively, Criscito made seven tackles and five clearances to help quell the threat from a dominant Empoli side.

RM: Lucas Moura (Tottenham Hotspur)

Lucas Moura scored twice for Tottenham in their 3-0 victory against Manchester United

Lucas Moura scored twice for Tottenham in their 3-0 victory against Manchester United.

Playing from the right, but also forming an impressive partnership with Harry Kane through the middle, Lucas Moura tormented Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday night. The Brazilian was unfortunate not to win a penalty for his side in the first-half, but didn’t let that stop him, as he netted twice after the break. His second of the night was superb, racing beyond Chris Smalling before finishing confidently to seal the 3-0 success.

CM: Marco Benassi (Fiorentina)

Fiorentina were absolutely rampant this weekend, as they beat Chievo 6-1, with midfielder Marco Benassi producing a superb display. The Italian netted his first of the game with a superb header, as he steered home a cross from Giovanni Simeone. The 23-year-old’s second was equally as impressive as he controlled a pass over the top from Cristiano Biraghi before finishing calmly with his left foot.

CM: Piotr Zielinski (Napoli)

Piotr Zielinski netted a brace for Napoli in their comeback win against AC Milan

Piotr Zielinski netted a brace for Napoli in their comeback win against AC Milan.

2-0 down at home to AC Milan, Napoli needed a hero. Step forward, midfielder Piotr Zielinski. The Poland international netted a brace to help Carlo Ancelotti’s side come back to make it two wins from two. Zielinski’s first was a well-taken left-footed strike from the edge of the area, before his deflected volley wrong-footed Gianluigi Donnarumma and levelled proceedings. Zielinski’s passing was also exceptional, as he completed just over 93 per cent of his 45 passes.

LM: Pione Sisto (Celta Vigo)

Denmark international Pione Sisto was simply too good for Levante on Monday night. The 23-year-old netted a stunning strike to open the scoring as he fired home from a narrow angle after beating his man with ease, before a sublime defence-splitting pass allowed Maxi Gomez to double Celta Vigo’s lead. Sisto make three key passes and completed three dribbles in a dominant performance, as Celta picked up their first win of the new LaLiga season.

ST: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)

With Cristiano Ronaldo gone, Gareth Bale is certainly stepping out of the Portugal star’s shadow. Bale was heavily involved in both goals in the opening-day win against Getafe, and was at his best again in the comeback victory at Girona. The Welshman scored a brilliant goal to make it 3-1, as he latched onto Isco’s pass, before he set up Karim Benzema with an excellent low cross to complete the victory for Julen Lopetegui’s side.

ST: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham)

How Newcastle United could do with Aleksandar Mitrovic. The 23-year-old has picked up where he left off from his loan spell at Fulham last season. Excellent movement to find space in the box to net both his goals against Burnley and was backed up by a terrific all-round display. The striker was unfortunate not to get his hat-trick, watching his shot come back off the post, before Andre Schurrle converted.

Our European Team of the Week!

Our European Team of the Week!

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Niko Kovac backs Bayern Munich to find another gear in the Bundesliga

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Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac believes his squad are ready to step things up again as they look to deliver a seventh successive Bundesliga title.

The Croatian took over at the Allianz Arena following the retirement of Jupp Heynckes, and has a tough legacy to live up to.

In the Super Cup, Bayern coasted to a 5-0 win against Eintracht Frankfurt, Kovac’s former club.

However, last weekend the champions needed a late goal from Robert Lewandowski to finally see off Regionalliga outfit SV Dochtersen/Assel 1-0 in the DFB-Pokal.

The new Bundesliga campaign starts on Friday night, with Bayern at home against Hoffenheim.

Kovac, who guided Frankfurt to success in the German Cup last season, insists his Bayern players will meet the challenges in front of them head on once again.

“Of course I want to win the championship, but I am also happy there are competitors (for the title) out there – competition makes things more interesting,” Kovac said at a press conference.

“When our opponents are good, then we have to be good or to be even better, that can only help us.

“I’m convinced that my team will have a solid outing tomorrow, because we are physically and technically at an extremely high level.

“However, we will really have to go to the limits and cannot take this game lightly.”

Lewandowski had scored a hat-trick in the Super Cup.

However, in an interview this week, the veteran Poland forward spoke of how he felt a lack of support from the club during a testing personal spell towards the end of last season.

Kovac, though, hopes both the player and his new Bayern squad can put the issues firmly behind them.

“I was not here last season, so I cannot evaluate if he was supported enough or not,” Kovac said.

“Generally speaking, everybody needs love, appreciation and support. He didnt feel that way, and that is the way it is.

“But what matters now is he is fresh and motivated. He has trained and played extraordinarily well, scoring four important goals for us already.

“You can see that he is absolutely determined to give everything for this club. I’m happy about that, so are his team-mates and the fans.”

Hoffenheim, meanwhile, coasted past Kaiserslautern in their cup tie, running out 6-1 winners.

However, Die Kraichgauer have won only two of their previous 20 clashes with Bayern in the Bundesliga.

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