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.
“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.
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)