Is Modric really the best football player in the world? – Evening Echo

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Real Madrid and Croatia star Luka Modric was the unanimous victor of the 2018 Ballon d’Or, but do the stats back it up?


Michael Dorgan

Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric scooped the 2018 Ballon d’Or this week ending the Cristiano Ronaldo/ Lionel Messi monopoly of the award since 2008 but was it justified?

The award is given out each year by France Football to honour the world’s best player and the magazine selects one journalist from each country to give their top five players for the calendar year. 180 journalists took part in the vote rankings by allocating a player with either, six, four, three, two or one points and the Real Madrid midfielder came out comfortably on top with 753 points.

Ronaldo filled the runner-up spot on 476 points with France’s Antoine Griezmann just behind him in third on 414 points and Messi back in 5th on 280 points.

While there’s no doubt Modric had an outstanding season winning his third successive Champions League trophy in May before helping Croatia to a first World Cup final, whether he did enough to scoop the award so easily is open to serious examination.

Real Madrid’s Ronaldo found his stride in the latter part of last season but made up for his slow start by bagging 26 goals in 27 league games, and a further 15 in 13 Champions League appearances, finishing as the tournament’s top scorer for the sixth consecutive season. His blistering form helped Los Blanco’s secure their third consecutive European Cup (alongside Modric) and his fifth as a player.

In 2018 he also bagged La Liga hat-trick number 34 (another record), became the only player to score in 11 consecutive Champions League games and became the only player to score in eight consecutive major international tournaments: the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 editions of the European Championship; and the 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018 editions of the World Cup. He scored four goals in four games for Portugal in this year’s World Cup, single handily dragging the reigning European champions into the last 16.

Now stats aren’t everything in football and without context, one can often obfuscate what’s in plain sight. Further, Modric has never been renowned for his goalscoring prowesses. That being said the 33-year-olds figures pale in comparison to Ronaldo’s. A return of one goal and six assists in 26 league games and a further 11 Champions League games yielded a single goal and one assist. While he came away with the ‘Golden Ball’ award at the World Cup, he scored one goal from play and had just one assist. Are these the statistics of the world’s best player?

A case can even be made for Barcelona’s Lionel Messi deserving a sixth Ballon d’Or after another successful campaign which saw him win a domestic double in La Liga and the Copa Del Rey. In the 2017-18 season, Messi was the leading scorer in La Liga with 34 goals, cementing his place as the league’s all-time top scorer and shared top spot on the assist chart with 12.

Perhaps it has been the extraordinary standards both Ronaldo and Messi have set over the past decade that has made us expect the extraordinary. We are always looking for a new star or have perhaps become too acquainted with the same old faces.

Then again, as Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle, wrote in The Boscombe Valley Mystery, “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

This article first appeared in the Evening Echo on December 8, 2018. 


Update – Ronaldo speaks out claims ‘numbers do not lie’ after Luka Modric wins Ballon d’Or

From Sky Sports on December 10, 2018

Cristiano Ronaldo says he was disappointed not to win the Ballon d’Or and claimed the “numbers do not lie” after being beaten to the award by Luka Modric.

The 33-year-old, who joined Juventus in the summer for a fee in the region of £105m, finished second in the voting behind his former Real Madrid team-mate.

Ronaldo has won the award five times, the same as Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, and picked up the prize in 2016 and 2017.

However, Modric was named this year’s winner after helping Real Madrid win the Champions League last season and guiding Croatia to the World Cup final in the summer, but Ronaldo believes he deserved to win it for a sixth time.

“Of course I’m disappointed, but life goes on and I will continue to work hard,” he told the Italian press.

“On the pitch I’ve done everything to win the Ballon d’Or, numbers do not lie, but I’m no less happy if I do not win, I have wonderful friends and a family, I play in one of the best clubs.

“Congratulations to Modric, who has earned the award, but next year we will meet again and I will do everything to win the prize again.

“Do you think I’m going home and crying?”

Modric also received the best men’s player prize at the FIFA Best awards in September.

Ronaldo has scored 11 goals in all competitions this season for Juventus, bringing his career total to 584.