Luka Modric favorite to end Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or domination

Updated 03 December 2018
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Luka Modric favorite to end Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or domination

PARIS: The winner of the 2018 Ballon d’Or will be revealed at a glittering ceremony in Paris on Monday evening, with Croatia’s Luka Modric and a host of French World Cup winners all hoping to finally end the 10-year duopoly of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo and Messi have dominated the award for the last decade, claiming it five times each, but the expectation is that a new name will be read out as this year’s winner at just after 21.00 GMT at the Grand Palais, just off the Champs-Elysees.
While Ronaldo won another Champions League with Real Madrid in a typically prolific year, and Messi continues to mesmerise for Barcelona, both are now in their 30s and neither really stamped their authority on the World Cup in Russia.
That could be crucial. As FIFA president Gianni Infantino said recently: “You could give the Ballon d’Or to half the France team for what they did at the World Cup.”
Six members of the France side that triumphed in Russia are among the 30 nominees for the award, which is organized by France Football magazine and voted for by 180 journalists from around the world.
Among them are Paris Saint-Germain’s dazzling teenage forward Kylian Mbappe, Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann and Madrid’s Champions League-winning defender Raphael Varane. Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante are also in the running.
The last Frenchman to win the Ballon d’Or was Zinedine Zidane in 1998, on the back of France’s World Cup victory on home soil that year.

NEW WOMEN’S AWARD
But perhaps the lack of one standout French candidate has cleared the path for Modric, who heroically helped drag his country to the World Cup final before being beaten by France in Moscow.
The 33-year-old was also brilliant in the Real side that retained their Champions League crown for the second year running, and the Spanish club would love to see him succeed 2016 and 2017 winner Ronaldo, who has since left the Bernabeu for Juventus.
Club influences aside, Modric would be a worthy winner, even if he lacks the incredible statistics of Ronaldo and Messi.
Recent evidence also goes in favor of the little playmaker, who won the Golden Ball for the best player at the World Cup before claiming UEFA’s prize for player of the season and FIFA’s best player award in September, beating Mohamed Salah and Ronaldo to the latter.
“Modric is an exceptional player. He has shown that throughout his career, not just at Real but also at his former clubs and with his country,” said Real coach Santiago Solari of a player who grew up during Croatia’s independence war.
“He must have grown up in a very hard context and I wonder if that helped him to have the character he has.”
With Modric emerging as the most likely winner, France coach Didier Deschamps was even asked this weekend if his country’s World Cup triumph could be somehow devalued by the lack of a Ballon d’Or to go alongside it.
“I don’t want to get into that debate. I don’t vote. I just hope it is a Frenchman. Whoever wins it will deserve too,” he said.
In any case, the gala — which will be presented by a former France player in David Ginola — will include a prize for the best player aged under 21, the Kopa Trophy.
Mbappe, who turns 20 later this month, seems a certain winner of that award, voted for by 33 living former Ballon d’Or winners.
There is also now a women’s Ballon d’Or prize, voted for by 45 journalists. The 15 nominees include seven players from Lyon, the Champions League winners, and Brazil great Marta, who won the recent FIFA prize.


Man City completes sweep of English trophies with FA Cup win

Updated 18 May 2019
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Man City completes sweep of English trophies with FA Cup win

  • Now City is the undisputed power of English football — a status it claimed from neighbor Manchester United

LONDON: Raheem Sterling scored a hat trick as Manchester City completed the first sweep of English men’s football trophies by routing Watford 6-0 in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
The fourth piece of silverware was sealed with four different scorers at Wembley Stadium, with David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus also netting in the humiliation of Watford.
Victory for Pep Guardiola’s side came a week after the Premier League trophy was retained to join the League Cup and Community Shield already in City’s possession.
“What a season,” City captain Vincent Kompany said. “What a tremendous club.”
But the unprecedented achievement by football’s costliest squad comes against the backdrop of investigations into City’s compliance into football’s spending rules that could lead to the Abu Dhabi-owned team being banned from the Champions League.
More than $1 billion has been spent on transfer fees alone since 2008 when Sheikh Mansour bought a team that was more accustomed to playing in lower leagues than lifting trophies.
It wasn’t until 2011 that City ended a 35-year trophy drought by winning the FA Cup.
Now City is the undisputed power of English football — a status it claimed from neighbor Manchester United.
Watford was contesting its first cup final in 35 years and never had a look in after Roberto Pereyra was denied the chance to snatch a shock lead in the 11th minute by goalkeeper Ederson.
The City players were celebrating in front of the Watford fans in the 26th.
After Abdoulaye Doucoure gave the ball away, City broke forward and Sterling headed through for David Silva to strike into the net.
City’s other Silva — Bernardo — was the provider of the second in the 38th, chipping to the far post where Gabriel Jesus diverted the ball into an empty net. Sterling ensured it crossed the line and was credited with the goal.
The onslaught came in the second half with De Bruyne exerting his influence after coming off the bench.
The Belgian netted in the 61st, receiving the ball from Gabriel Jesus, who had combined with Sterling.
Gabriel Jesus found the net seven minutes later after being released by De Bruyne’s throughball, sliding past Heurelho Gomes after the goalkeeper came off his line.
Then the record-equaling final victory margin came from a double inside six minutes from Sterling, who grew up near Wembley and has a tattoo of the stadium’s arch.
The Football Writers’ Association player of the year tapped in after latching onto Bernardo Silva’s cross in the 81st, and met the rebound after Gomes pushed his initial shot onto the post.
“It just shows what the manager’s building here,” Sterling said. “At the start of the season he said, ‘Let’s try and get the mentality right and go for the Premier League again,’ and we’ve done that again, exceptionally well.
“It’s a credit to all the boys, being mentally switched on throughout the season which has been long with the World Cup as well. Everyone’s been focused and on their A game the whole way through.”