Luka Modric wins world player of year, ends Ronaldo-Messi duology

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FIFA President Gianni Infantino presents Luka Modric with the Best Men's Player award. (Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley)
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Luka Modric has broken a decade of award dominance by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi after being crowned world footballer of the year by FIFA. (AFP)
Updated 25 September 2018
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Luka Modric wins world player of year, ends Ronaldo-Messi duology

  • Egyptian legend Mohamed Salah wins fan-voted Puskas Award for scoring the best goal of the year
  • Saudi Arabian legend Sami Al-Jaber presents award for Best Fans to Peruvian contingent

LONDON: Croatia’s Luka Modric was crowned Men's Player of the Year at FIFA’s The Best Awards, but insisted beaten finalist Mohamed Salah should be proud of his record-breaking season, assuring the Egyptian he will have other opportunities to win the sport’s premier individual award. 

Modric, who won the Champions League for a third successive year with Real Madrid and led his country to the World Cup final in Russia this summer, beat both Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo to the award. The 33-year-old is the the first player outside of Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to win the prize since 2008. Neither of the two former winners attended the otherwise star-studded event at Royal Festival Hall.
 
“It’s a great honor and beautiful feeling to stand here with this amazing trophy,” Modric said, after being presented the award by FIFA president Gianni Infantino. “I want to give congratulations to Mohamed and Cristiano for the great seasons they had.”

Looking at Salah, Modric added: “I am sure in the future you will have another opportunity to fight for this trophy.”

The 26-year-old Egyptian did take to the stage to collect a prize when, earlier in the evening, he picked up the fan-voted Puskas Award for scoring the best goal of the year. The Liverpool forward’s strike against city rivals Everton last December in the Premier League was deemed more worthy than Ronaldo’s bicycle kick in the Champions League and Gareth Bale’s emulation in the competition’s final a few weeks later. 

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah is presented with the FIFA Puskas award by Noel Gallagher and Didier Drogba. (Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley)

“I’ve nothing much to say about this,” Salah responded after accepting his award from fellow African Didier Drogba and English musician Noel Gallagher. “I’m very happy and proud… and looking forward to another award later tonight.”

He, however, had to wait to learn he would be not be returning to the stage as host Idris Elba and a host of special guests presented a wide range of other awards. 

Didier Deschamps was awarded Best Coach having led France to World Cup glory, beating out competition from Zinedine Zidane and Zlatko Dalic. Zidane resigned from Real Madrid earlier this year after winning three successive Champions League titles and embraced his former France teammate amicably. Dalic, who spent seven years in the Gulf with Saudi clubs Al-Faisaly and Al-Hilal before enjoying great success with Al-Ain in the UAE, inherited a Croatia side on the edge of failing to qualify for the World Cup and took them to the final within 12 months. 

Reynald Pedros won Best Women’s Coach for his work with Lyon, having led them to a memorable league, cup and Women’s Champions League treble, while Brazil's Marta was crowned Best Women's Player for a record sixth time for her role in winning the Copa America, fending off Lyon duo Ada Hegerberg and Dzsenifer Marozsan.

Real Madrid new boy Thibault Courtois was handed Best Goalkeeper for his performances for Chelsea last year, although was curiously beaten by Manchester United’s Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea to a place in the Fifa All-Star Team. Salah was also surprisingly snubbed for the FIFA All-Star Team, with Ronaldo being joined in a forward line alongside Messi, PSG’s Kylian Mbappe, and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. Modric slotted in behind alongside N’golo Kante, who was positioned to protect a defense of Marcelo, Dani Alves, Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos.

“I am very happy and proud to be named as one of the best 11 players in the world again,” Varane told reporters afterwards. The French defender was the only player to win both the World Cup and the Champions League this past year.

Salah, who disappeared after the ceremony without speaking to any media, had said before the awards were announced that he was not pinning his hopes on victory, instead looking forward to the future.  

“I'm happy to be here, but I’m sure it’s not the last time,” he said. “My goal is just to be better than last season, but I’m not worrying about that. We’ll just see what happens. [Qualifying for the World Cup was] the best moment in my life so far; a big thing for us as a nation. It would mean a lot to win; it’s a dream come true, but I have a long time still to play football.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian legend Sami Al-Jaber presented the award for Best Fans to a small contingent of Peruvians who represented the more than 40,000 compatriots who attended this summer’s World Cup in Russia, their country’s first appearance in 36 years. 

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AWARD RESULTS


Puskas Award: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Best Goalkeeper: Thibault Courtois (Real Madrid)
Best Coach: Didier Deschamps (France)
Best Women’s Coach: Reynald Pedros (Lyon)
Best Fans: Peru Fans
Fair Play Award: Lennart Thy (VVV Venlo)
World XI: De Gea; Alves, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Kante; Hazard, Messi, Mbappe; Ronaldo 
Women’s Player of the Year: Marta (Orlando Pride)
Men’s Player of the Year: Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
 


Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 14 min 7 sec ago
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Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

  • Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start in the second minute
  • For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on

CAIRO: Baghdad Bounedjah’s early goal propelled Algeria to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in 29 years after a fiery 1-0 victory over Sadio Mane’s Senegal in Friday’s final in Cairo.

Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start in the second minute when his deflected shot looped over Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, and it proved enough for the 1990 champions to lift the trophy on foreign soil for the first time.

For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on as coach Aliou Cisse, the captain of the 2002 runners-up, again fell short in the final.

It was the first title-decider to feature two African coaches since 1998, with Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi completing a whirlwind 12 months at the helm after inheriting a side that failed to make it out of the group stage two years ago.

With defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly suspended for Senegal, Salif Sane deputised at the back and Ismaila Sarr was recalled in attack, while Belmadi kept faith in the same side that overcame Nigeria with an injury-time free-kick from Riyad Mahrez.

Senegal had understandably feared the absence of Napoli star Koulibaly, banned after two bookings in the knockout rounds, although the towering Sane was desperately unlucky as Algeria grabbed the lead with scarcely a minute played.

As Bounedjah took aim from 20 yards his effort smacked off Sane and arced high into the air before dropping underneath the crossbar and beyond a static Gomis, sparking delirious celebrations from both players and fans, some of whom arrived for the final on military planes provided by the Algerian government.

It was the first time Gomis had conceded in almost 400 minutes in Egypt having replaced the injured Edouard Mendy ahead of Senegal’s final group game.

Henri Saivet, who missed a penalty in the 1-0 victory over Tunisia, tried to catch Rais Mbohli out with a free-kick while Mbaye Niang fizzed a powerful drive just over as Senegal gradually showed signs of life before the half ended with both sets of players embroiled in a scuffle as they headed for the tunnel.

Senegal thought they had won a penalty on the hour when Cameroonian referee Alioum Alioum pointed to the spot for a suspected handball by Adlene Guedioura, but the official reversed his decision after a VAR review.

Niang rounded an advancing Mbohli after a searching ball through from Cheikhou Kouyate but the forward sliced wide of the target from a tough angle, with the Algeria ‘keeper then acrobatically tipping over a rasping drive from Youssouf Sabaly.

The Desert Foxes started to look jaded as Senegal brought on fresh legs in Krepin Diatta and Mbaye Diagne, but Youcef Belaili nearly made it 2-0 when his cross brushed the head of a defender and skimmed the roof of the net.

Sarr blazed over on the volley as Algeria clung on to their advantage in the closing minutes, the final whistle greeted by an outpouring of raw emotion as the North Africans emerged worthy winners of the expanded 24-team event.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman telephoned Algeria’s interim president Abdelkader Bensalah to congratulate him on Algeria’s African Cup of Nations win, with Bensalah thanking the king for his phone call.