Dubai: Once again, UAE fans will be able to watch the world’s best player in action at December’s Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, after Luka Modric signalled an end to a decade of dominance by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to win the Fifa player of the year award in London on Monday.
The first Croatian to win the award ended a run of five wins each by Messi and Ronaldo, after claiming his fourth Uefa Champions League title with Real Madrid and then leading Croatia to their first World Cup final, where they lost to France, over the summer.
This trophy is not just mine. It’s for all my Real Madrid teammates. For all my teammates in the Croatia national team. For all the coaches...”
- Luka Modric | Footballer
Messi wasn’t even in the three-man shortlist, while Ronaldo, who finished second, didn’t attend. Mohammad Salah finished third after helping Liverpool reach their first Champions League final in 11 years.
Modric’s win confirms a changing of the guard in world football just three months after both Messi and Ronaldo crashed out of what will surely be their last World Cup at the Last 16 stage in Russia.
Ronaldo has since left Real Madrid for Juventus over the summer, while Messi is embarking on his 15th straight season with Barcelona.
Given the standard of the current crop of stars circling, like Salah, Kylian Mbappe, Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne, it would take something special for an ageing Messi and Ronaldo to get back into contention for this award next year.
We should have seen the signs coming from Modric as he picked up player of the tournament during Real Madrid’s Fifa Club World Cup win in Abu Dhabi last December. He will now return to the UAE capital, this December 12-22 to defend both gongs.
“This trophy is not just mine,” said the 33-year-old playmaker of his latest accolade. “It’s for all my Real Madrid teammates. For all my teammates in the Croatia national team. For all the coaches that I have played for.”
Recognition at last for the former Dinamo Zagreb and Tottenham Hotspur star comes after he was charged with perjury for allegedly lying on oath in March following a criminal investigation into his 2008 move between both clubs.
This was not a time to worry about that pending case however, as he went on to leave former Croatia captain Zvonimir Boban in tears following a dedication.
“I would like to mention my footballing idol and captain of Croatia’s 1998 generation, who were the first to participate at a World Cup, reaching bronze in France,” he said. “He was my big inspiration and that team gave us belief that we could achieve something great in Russia. Hopefully, we can be the same for next generations.”
Modric’s Real face the winners of five other continental competitions, plus hosts Al Ain, in this December’s Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, for the right to be crowned world champions. This will not only be the fourth time the tournament has come to the UAE, but also the third time an incumbent world player of the year has wowed fans at Zayed Sports City after Messi and Ronaldo both played and won the title here in 2009 and 2017 respectively.