Was Luka Modric the best player of 2018? Let’s take a look at the evidence.
He was instrumental in guiding Real Madrid to another Champions League triumph as well as taking Croatia all the way to the World Cup final.
But Modric’s Madrid team-mate Raphael Varane went one further with France. Minus the Champions League, add a Ligue 1 title and you’ve got Kylian Mbappe. Replace that Ligue 1 title with the Europa League and you’ve got Antoine Griezmann.
Lionel Messi scored 45 goals in 50 appearances for club and country, lifting La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup while picking up the European Golden Shoe and La Liga’s Best Player’s award.
Then there’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Yet little Luka walked the award with 753 points to Ronaldo’s 476.
How can you explain such a landslide? For that, you need to turn to Andres Iniesta.
Iniesta’s name will forever have an asterisk at the end of it. Iniesta* is the best player never to win the Ballon d’Or.
In 2010 he was at his artistic best, winning La Liga, the Spanish Super Cup and the World Cup. Two years later he lifted another Copa del Rey and the European Championships.
No matter how many feints from right foot to left Iniesta ghosted past defenders with, the awards weren’t forthcoming.
Messi was just too prolific, although it remains one of football’s greatest travesties that Iniesta didn’t beat his Barcelona colleague in 2010.
The 2017 award marked a decade since Kaka won the Ballon d’Or, setting into motion a ten year tug-of-war between Messi and Ronaldo.
Everyone was getting bored. The Ballon d’Or was losing its mystique. The Ghost of Iniesta Past was looming large.
So when Modric came along and repeatedly reduced world-class midfields to shadow-chasers using brain over brawn, as Iniesta had done for so many years, it proved the perfect antidote.
There could only be one winner.
Of course, there’s another person we need to thank. He’s currently lounging in an Australian jungle.
Modric, standing in front of the cream of world football, explained: “The change of position helped me a lot in my career. I used to play more offensively.
“When I dropped back, I was able to read the game better and show my creativity. Harry Redknapp made that change.”
Well in, ‘Arry.
It’s not fair that Messi was named the fifth best player in world football despite scoring 45 goals in 2018. The GOAT has normalised the freakish.
But it’s also not fair that Iniesta was only runner-up back in 2010. Football is a cruel game.
Modric’s win is one for the creatives, not the goalscorers.
Hopefully Iniesta, Xavi, Deco and Juan Roman Riquelme were sat in a bar somewhere, painting works of art while exchanging nods of approval.
READ MORE FROM THE WORLD OF DREAM TEAM:
- What happened to the Jose Mourinho whose Real Madrid side scored 326 goals
- Mesut Ozil has found himself as the biggest loser in Unai Emery’s Arsenal revolution
- Remembering when Luka Modric was named worst signing of the year