Luka Modric, Ballon d’Or winner.
Just reward for a 2018 that featured the Golden Ball for Croatia as best player at the World Cup and a third-consecutive Champions League-crown with Real Madrid, or counter-evidence to the axiom about The Wisdom of Crowds?
It had, seemingly, become accepted fact since the successes of the summer that the 33-year-old centre midfielder deserved to shatter the decade-long duopoly of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi on the game’s grandest individual prizes.
The only regular dissenting voice from within football came from Atletico Madrid and France forward Antoine Griezmann. His brazen campaign to be crowned on Monday night at Paris’ Grand Palais was, almost solely, self-serving – and even continued in defeat after the ceremony.
“I am very happy with my year 2018,” he said.
“I won the Europa League, I won the Super Cup and the World Cup so it’s a great year. A little disappointed [to miss out on the Ballon d’Or] but it was a big night to celebrate the winners, so I had to be there.”
Sour grapes, perhaps. But with more than a kernel of truth.
Griezmann is just one of several players who could feel aggrieved by the collective decision of the 176 journalists, drawn from across the globe. The only difference was his decision to so publicly canvas votes.
A dispassionate analysis of Modric’s calendar year sees him put in mixed displays for a Madrid side that finished 17 points off La Liga champions Barcelona and stutter out the gates in 2018/19.
In the knockout phase of last term’s Champions League, Ronaldo would score six goals on the way to victory. Gareth Bale was named man of the match in the final.
In Russia, Modric was spellbinding against Argentina in the groups and exerted a growing influence against England in the semi-finals. He also missed a penalty – that his pass helped earn – in the forgettable round-of-16 triumph versus Denmark and could not lay a glove on the likes of Paul Pogba in the sodden, one-sided decider against France.
Raphael Varane is equally guilty of mixed form for Madrid. Yet the centre-back is now not just a Champions League holder, but possesses a World Cup winner’s medal.
He was also peerless in shut-outs against Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani’s Uruguay – from which he scored the opener – in the quarter-finals, plus star-studded Belgium in the semis.
This should count for more than seventh place in the Ballon d’Or rankings.
Griezmann scored in three of Les Bleus’ four knockout matches in Russia, including a penalty in the final. He also scored two of three goals in May’s 3-0 triumph for Atleti against Marseille in the Europa League showpiece.
Influence is not always ascertained in a cold reading of statistics. This is certainly the case with Modric’s unmatched ability – certainly since Xavi stepped away from the European game – to bend a match his way, drop a shoulder to earn a hard-won inch of space in midfield and selflessly facilitate the attackers in front of him.
His 484 passes was the second-most notched in Russia. This speaks volume of his brand of influence.
But when it comes to weight of numbers, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah produced the most-prolific Premier League season in history with 32 strikes in 36 matches – admittedly, across a period that traverses the 2017 and 2018 votes.
This was during a debut season, to boot.
Modric’s former colleague Ronaldo moved to Juventus in the summer for €110 million at the age of 33. His seamless transition now features 10 goals in his last 11 Serie A matches.
Never mind the aforementioned exploits at Madrid. Against his future employers in an epic Champions League quarter-final, his bicycle kick in Turin stands as one of football’s great goals and a converted 98th-minute penalty to salvage progression represents an all-time clutch moment.
Messi has come away from 2018 with the La Liga crown and a lifetime worth of recriminations after a, probably last, viable shot at World Cup glory with Argentina went to waste.
His much-criticised displays in Russia dominate a narrative that ignores a domestic campaign that ranked among his finest for Barcelona.
Fatigue about this pair’s dominance created a bandwagon, from which Modric was the recipient.
Resentment from them about this week’s usurpation is natural. They are not alone.
Change is good, but it rings hollow if not allied with justification.
Hola Madridistas. And welcome along to Tuesday’s Real Madrid blog.
The Sport360 team will be in place throughout the day to bring you all the latest Los Blancos news, views and gossip including the reactions to Luka Modric’s Ballon d’Or win.
15:00 – It’s been a great year for Luka Modric
11:30 – Dream come true for Modric
Luka Modric admitted he was living his dream after capping a remarkable year by lifting the 2018 Ballon d’Or
9:00 – Perez expecting more Real Madrid Ballon d’Or domination
On Monday, Luka Modric became the latest Real Madrid player to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or award and it is a tradition club president Florentino Perez expects to continue.
The Croatian midfielder pipped his former Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo to the award as he continued the club’s domination of Ballon d’Or in recent times.
Read Perez’s quotes in full here.
8:00am – Luka Modric wins the Ballon d’Or
It’s the end of an era. The Ballon d’Or has a new recipient following a 10-year duopoly that saw either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo take home the prestigious individual award.
Luka Modric has claimed the 2018 edition, becoming the first player other than Messi or Ronaldo to win the Ballon d’Or since Kaka in 2008.
Read more on Modric’s win here.
Luka Modric admitted he was living his dream after capping a remarkable year by lifting the 2018 Ballon d’Or.
The 33-year-old Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder broke the stranglehold placed on France football’s prestigious award by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the last decade at a ceremony in Paris on Monday evening.
Former Real team-mate Ronaldo and Argentinian superstar Messi had each won the Ballon d’Or on five occasions since Brazilian Kaka did so in 2007.
In his acceptance speech broadcast by la chaine L’Equipe, Modric said: “It’s a unique feeling. I am happy, proud and honoured. I have sensational emotions at the moment that are really hard to describe in words.
“First of all, I would like to thank my team-mates and coaches at Real Madrid and all the people who work for Real Madrid, all my coaches at team-mates with the national team, all those who voted for me and of course, my family, my wife and kids.
“They are fulfilling me as a person and helping me in all aspects to be successful as a professional.
“As a kid, we all have dreams. My dream was to play for a big club, to win important trophies. I dreamed about it, but the Ballon d’Or was more than a childhood dream for me and it’s a real honour and a privilege to hold this trophy tonight.”
Modric’s recognition was reward for a fine 12 months during which he helped his club to lift the Champions League for the third successive season in May before playing a key role in Croatia’s surge to the World Cup final.
He won the Golden Ball for his contribution in Russia and was named the Best FIFA footballer of the Year in September, and is the first Croatian to claim the Ballon d’Or.
Ronaldo, who left Real for Italian giants Juventus in a £99.2million switch in July, finished as runner-up ahead of France’s World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann.
Messi was relegated to the relative backwaters, by his standards, of fifth behind Griezmann’s international team-mate Kylian Mbappe, with Liverpool and Egypt striker Mohamed Salah the first Premier-League based player in the list.
England skipper Harry Kane, who won the Golden Boot in Russia, came 10th, with Wales’ talisman Gareth Bale finishing in 17th place.
The first women’s Ballon d’Or was awarded to Lyon’s Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg, who scored 53 goals for the club in 33 appearances last season and has 14 in as many games to date during the current campaign.