Lionel Messi Wins Ballon D’or For Sixth Time

(COMBO) This combination of file photographs created on December 3, 2019, shows Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacting as he receives the Ballon d’or Football Trophy. Messi won a record-breaking sixth Ballon d’Or on December 2, 2019.  AFP

 

Lionel Messi won a record sixth men’s Ballon d’Or award at a ceremony in Paris on Monday, beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk to take the honours.

Now aged 32, it is Messi’s first Ballon d’Or since 2015 and his sixth overall as he moves one ahead of his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who finished third in the voting.

Messi, who attended the ceremony at the Chatelet Theatre in the French capital with his wife and children, succeeds Luka Modric, the Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder who won the prize last year.

The Barcelona number 10 previously won the award in 2009, 2010, 2011 and in 2012 before claiming his fifth Ballon d’Or in 2015.

READ ALSO: Megan Rapinoe Wins Women’s Ballon D’or

This latest honour comes after he also claimed FIFA’s equivalent award, The Best, in September.

“It is 10 years since I won my first Ballon d’Or here in Paris and I remember coming here with my three brothers, I was 22 and it was all unthinkable for me what I was going through,” Messi said on stage.

“Now ten years on this is my sixth, in a very different time, very special in my personal life with my wife and three children.”

The Argentine added: “I am aware of the age I have but I hope I have several years left to keep enjoying my football and doing this.”

Sadio Mane, another of the stars of the Liverpool side that won the Champions League, came fourth in the ranking for the prize voted for by 180 journalists from around the world.

Messi has scored 46 goals in 54 matches so far in 2019 and netted 36 times in total in 34 La Liga matches last season as Barcelona won the Spanish crown.

AFP

Rapinoe Edges Modric, Neymar To Make Ballon D’Or Shortlist

 

While Megan Rapinoe is the leading candidate for the second ever women’s Ballon D’Or, the holder of the men’s award, Luka Modric, and the world’s most expensive player Neymar missed out as France Football unveiled nominees in four categories on Monday.

Modric, fresh from guiding Croatia to a World Cup final, broke the 11-year Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi, who are both included, stranglehold on the men’s award last year.

Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar, who cost the French club 222 million euros ($247 million) in 2017, failed to make the 30-man shortlist after a year overshadowed by injury, suspension and controversy for both club and country.

Messi has just collected the FIFA Best award, as did Rapinoe, which split from the Ballon D’Or in 2016.

Rapinoe dominated the Women’s World Cup, on and off the field, in the summer.

She was joint top scorer and was voted player of the tournament as she led the United States to victory in France in July.

The 34-year-old Reign FC playmaker, already a campaigner for LGBT rights and gender equality, made headlines during the tournament by publicly taking on US President Donald Trump.

Last year, Norwegian Ada Hegerberg was the first women’s winner.

The Lyon forward did not play in the World Cup but is among the 20 nominees as are stars who were present at the competition, such as Australia striker Sam Kerr, England’s Lucy Bronze and France captain Amandine Henry.

Virgil Van Dijk, 28, who has had an impressive six months with Liverpool lifting the Champions League, could become a rare defensive winner of the men’s award.

Fabio Cannavaro was the last defender to win in 2006, and only the fourth since the award began in 1956.

Another nominee, Kylian Mbappe, the top goal scorer in Ligue 1 last season, would represent a genuine change of the guard.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker is inelgible to defend his Kopa trophy for the best player under 21 last year as he celebrates his 21st birthday on December 20.

This year also sees the introduction of the Yashin trophy, named after the only goalkeeper to win the Ballon D’Or, Lev Yashin of the Soviet Union, to give that ignored minority a chance to get their hands on a prize of their own.

The award winners will be unveiled on December 2 during a ceremony in Paris after a voting process including journalists from 180 different countries.

AFP

Luka Modric Beats French World Cup Stars To Win Ballon d’Or

BREAKING: Luka Modric Wins Ballon d'Or
Real Madrid’s Croatian midfielder Luka Modric kisses the trophy after receiving the 2018 FIFA Men’s Ballon d’Or award for best player of the year during the 2018 FIFA Ballon d’Or award ceremony at the Grand Palais in Paris on December 3, 2018. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Luka Modric’s journey from Croatian war child to the world’s best footballer was celebrated Monday when the Real Madrid midfielder hoisted the Ballon d’Or.

A national hero in his home country and crowned the best player on the planet, Modric was rewarded for his key role in Croatia’s historic run to the World Cup final and his club Real Madrid’s third straight Champions League trophy.

“It’s a unique feeling. I’m happy, proud and honoured,” said Modric, who also won the FIFA Player of the Year award in September.

The star-studded Paris ceremony could hardly be further removed from Modric’s early years as a child refugee, fleeing the burned-out shell of a remote Croatian cottage where he spent part of his childhood.

Hidden in the folds of Velebit mountain, with the nearest neighbours several kilometres away, trees now grow inside the roofless ruin and a sign warns of “Mines – Keep out!”

The player’s grandfather, also named Luka, lived in the house, lying on a mountain road winding through the Modrici hamlet.

His grandfather was killed by Serb forces, the house was burned and the family fled to the coastal town of Zadar, some 40 kilometres (19 miles) away.

It was there that Modric, born in 1985, began his footballing odyssey, drawing attention for the first time to his budding abilities.

“I heard about a little hyperactive boy constantly playing with a football in the corridor of a refugee hotel, even going to sleep with it,” said Josip Bajlo, who was then coach at the First Division club NK Zadar.

– Training under fire –

As soon as Bajlo saw Modric play he signed him up for the club’s football school, where he immediately stood out.

“He was an idol to his generation, a leader, a favourite,” Bajlo told AFP earlier this year.

The 1991-1995 war with Serb rebels, during which Zadar and the surrounding region were heavily shelled, toughened Modric, according to those close to him.

“It happened a million times that we were going to training as the shells were falling, and we were running to shelters,” said childhood friend Marijan Buljat, who trained and played with Modric while growing up.

Modric left Zadar, where he remains a legend, for Dinamo Zagreb in 2000 and then joined English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur in 2008. After a bidding war he was snapped up by Real Madrid in 2012.

But his popularity in Croatia and his image as a modest family man was tarnished by his testimony last year during the multi-million-euro corruption trial of former Dinamo Zagreb chief Zdravko Mamic.

Modric’s testimony supported Mamic’s case against allegations of corruption, angering many fans who saw the trial as a chance to clean up the corruption-ridden sport.

Prosecutors eventually charged Modric in March for giving false evidence, but dropped the case on Monday due to a lack evidence.

Any lingering anger against Modric had evaporated long ago, however, after he brilliantly inspired Croatia to their first World Cup final last summer.

Despite the 4-2 defeat by France, more than 500,000 people gave captain Modric and his team a heroic welcome on their return to Zagreb.

AFP

Croatia Court Drops Modric Perjury Charges

Croatia’s midfielder Luka Modric speaks during a press conference at the Maksimir football stadium in Zagreb on November 14, 2018 on the eve of the UEFA Nations League match against Spain.
AFP

 

A Zagreb court has dropped charges that Croatia football captain and Real Madrid star Luka Modric gave false testimony in a corruption trial, a court spokesman said on Monday.

“There is not enough evidence that he (Modric) committed the criminal offence of perjury,” Kresimir Devcic told AFP.

The ruling, which closes the case, comes as Modric is hoping to be awarded the 2018 Ballon d’Or in Paris on Monday for taking his team to the 2018 World Cup finals in Moscow.

Croatia lost to France in the final but the small nation was overjoyed by its historic run, which temporarily quieted anguish over corruption and other problems plaguing the sport.

In March, Croatian prosecutors had charged Modric, 33, with committing perjury during evidence he gave in the multi-million-euro corruption trial of former Dinamo Zagreb boss Zdravko Mamic.

Modric testified in June last year over the details of his 2008 transfer from Dinamo to Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur.

He went on to join Real Madrid in 2012.

Mamic and three other defendants were found guilty of charges of abuse of power and corruption that cost Dinamo, the current Croatian champions, more than 15 million euros ($17.3 million), and the state 1.5 million euros.

Mamic, who is currently in hiding in neighbouring Bosnia, was sentenced in June to six and a half years in jail.

Prosecutors allege cash was embezzled through fictitious deals related to player transfers.

AFP

Modric Says Return Of Home Fans Will Help In Spain Clash

Croatia’s midfielder Luka Modric speaks during a press conference at the Maksimir football stadium in Zagreb on November 14, 2018, on the eve of the UEFA Nations League match against Spain.
AFP

 

Croatia captain Luka Modric has welcomed the return of home fans for Thursday’s difficult Nations League meeting with Spain in Zagreb.

The World Cup finalists have been forced to play their last two competitive home matches behind closed doors as part of their punishment imposed by UEFA after a swastika was marked on their pitch before a Euro 2016 home qualifier against Italy.

That was just the latest in a litany of offences for racism that has seen Croatia consistently punished.

“We are facing a very difficult match,” Modric told reporters on the eve of the game at the Maksimir stadium.

“We need to be patient, wise and not to rush,” added the 33-year-old Real Madrid midfielder.

“Playing in front of full stands is an additional motivation. The fans will certainly be of major importance for us, we will give our best and try to win.”

Croatia certainly need a win if they are to press their hopes in the nascent Nations League.

Just two months after reaching the World Cup final, where they were beaten 4-2 by France, the “Vatreni” — Croatian for “Fiery Ones” – were hammered 6-0 by a resurgent Spain in Elche in their opening fixture.

They improved to draw 0-0 with England in a rematch of the World Cup semi-final, but the game was played in eerie silence at an empty stadium in Rijeka.

“After a historic success maybe two big matches came too soon,” explained Modric.

“We were empty, both emotionally and physically. Now we are in better shape. I believe you will see that on the pitch.”

Coach Zlatko Dalic, who stressed that his main goal was to qualify for the Euro 2020, echoed Modric’s view.

“We have to be very careful, this is a very difficult game for us,” said Dalic.

“Spain is a team with very good qualities, (coach) Luis Enrique changed the style a bit. They have a lot of young and fast players.

“Three points are important for the draw for the European championship qualifiers.”

On Sunday, Croatia travel to Wembley to face England in their final Nations League group match.

“I would love that the match at Wembley decides who will be top of the group,” said Dalic.

For that to happen, nothing less than a victory against the Spanish will do for the Croats.

Modric Ends Ronaldo-Messi Era, Wins FIFA Best Player Of The Year Award

Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric speaks after winning the trophy for the Best FIFA Men’s Player of 2018 Award during The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony, on September 24, 2018 in London. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Luka Modric ended Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s decade-long domination of football’s individual awards by being crowned FIFA’s best player of the year on Monday.

The Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder starred for both club and country as Madrid won a third straight Champions League, and he inspired Croatia to reach the World Cup final for the first time.

He beat Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah to the prize.

Modric’s success means Ronaldo remains tied with Messi having won FIFA’s award in different guises five times each.

At 33, Croatia’s run to the final was the culmination of a brilliant career for Modric that had often been overshadowed by Ronaldo’s goalscoring in their time together in the Spanish capital, before the Portuguese left for Juventus in July.

Modric scored twice and also netted in penalty shootout wins over Denmark and Russia, but it was his playmaking ability that caught the eye in winning the Golden Ball for the best player at the World Cup.

“It was an unbelievable season, the best season in my life,” said Modric.

“I’m still not realising how good a year I had collectively, individually, and I’m very proud for everything I achieved this year and it will be remembered forever.”

For a sixth straight season, Ronaldo was the Champions League’s top scorer with 15 goals and also scored four times at the World Cup, including a hat-trick against Spain in a thrilling 3-3 draw to open Portugal’s campaign.

However, Portugal’s last 16 exit to Uruguay in Russia and Ronaldo’s failure to score in the semi-finals or final of the Champions League opened the door for Modric.

– Messi, Ronaldo no show –

Neither Ronaldo or Messi attended the glitzy ceremony in London with both in action for Juventus and Barcelona respectively on Wednesday.

For the first time in 12 years, Messi was not among the finalists with third place going to Salah for his incredible 44-goal debut season with Liverpool that carried the Reds to the Champions League final.

However, a shoulder injury suffered early on in the final robbed Salah of the chance to help Liverpool lift the trophy and also meant he was far from peak condition as he led Egypt’s World Cup bid.

Despite scoring in each of his two appearances in Russia, he bowed out with the Pharaohs bowed at the group stage with three defeats.

Salah did not go away empty-handed, however, as he picked up the Puskas award for best goal for his strike against Everton in the Merseyside derby last December.

Modric was joined by Real team-mates Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Marcelo in the FIFPro team of the year, also featuring David De Gea, Dani Alves, N’Golo Kante, Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe, Messi and Ronaldo.

France’s World Cup-winning coach Didier Deschamps won the best coach of the year prize in recognition for his work in leading Les Bleus to success in Russia.

Deschamps, who became just the third man to win the World Cup as a player and coach, beat off competition from Dalic and his former France team-mate Zinedine Zidane, who won a third consecutive Champions League title with Real Madrid before resigning in June.

Thibaut Courtois won the best goalkeeper award for helping Belgium reach the World Cup semi-finals as well as the FA Cup with Chelsea before a summer move to Madrid.

Brazil’s Marta was crowned best women’s player for a record sixth time for her role in winning the Copa America to beat out Lyon duo Ada Hegerberg and Dzsenifer Marozsan.

Lyon boss Reynald Pedros did win the award for best women’s coach, though, after winning the Champions League with the French giants.

Ronaldo, Salah And Modric Nominated For FIFA Best Player Award

 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo faces stiff competition from former Real Madrid team-mate Luka Modric and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah to be crowned FIFA’s player of the year for a sixth time.

Ronaldo was the competition’s top scorer in lifting a fourth Champions League title in five years before heading for pastures new with Juventus in July.

Modric is also part of that Madrid side that has dominated the Champions League in recent years and won the Golden Ball for the best player at the World Cup for leading Croatia to the final.

Salah scored 44 goals in an incredible debut season for Liverpool before being robbed of his chance to make an impression in the Champions League final by an early injury.

Ronaldo ‘Furious’ At Losing UEFA Player Of Year To Modric

Ronaldo 'Furious' At Losing UEFA Player Of Year To Modric

 

Cristiano Ronaldo was hopping mad at losing out to Croatia star Luka Modric for the UEFA Player of the Year, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri revealed on Friday.

Real Madrid and Croatia midfield star Modric beat his former teammate Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah to the prize which was awarded on Thursday in Monaco.

“Yesterday he (Ronaldo) was very angry, and it’s only normal,” said Allegri.

“He scored 15 goals in the Champions League and won the trophy with his teammates.

“The attitude of Ronaldo shows how much he continues to strive and work to be still the best. This is an advantage for us.”

Allegri added that the choice of Modric was “a personal choice” of those who voted “and, as such, must be respected.”

Real Madrid Croatia’s midfielder Luka Modric receives the UEFA champions league midfielder of the season award during the draw for UEFA Champions League football tournament at The Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on August 30, 2018. Valery HACHE / AFP

 

Ronaldo, 33, had the consolation of being awarded the prize for best striker chosen by journalists and Champions League and Europa League coaches from last season.

Modric’s success, after he was named the best player at the World Cup, means that the 32-year-old should be among the favourites to win the Ballon d’Or, a prize dominated by Ronaldo and Lionel Messi over the last decade.

Ronaldo, a five-time winner of the world player of the year award, signed for Italian champions Juventus this summer from Real Madrid for 100 million euros ($116.5 million).

The Portuguese superstar’s agent Jorge Mendes slammed the decision as “simply ridiculous”.

“He scored 15 goals, carrying Real Madrid to the Champions League win once again,” Mendes told Portuguese daily Record.

“This is not the winner, he’s (Modric) the best player in the world in his position,” said Mendes.

Ronaldo had won the UEFA award three times in the previous four years.

AFP

Modric In Croatia Squad To Face Portugal, Spain

Croatia’s midfielder Luka Modric (R) celebrates after scoring their second goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Argentina and Croatia at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod on June 21, 2018. Johannes EISELE / AFP

 

Luka Modric awarded the Golden Ball for the best player at the World Cup, and his midfield partner Ivan Rakitic have both been called up to the Croatia squad for matches against Portugal and Spain in September.

In his first squad announcement since Croatia lost 4-2 to France in the World Cup final on July 15, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic called up 25 players.

Croatia will play Portugal in a friendly at the Estadio do Algarve on Thursday, September 6, before taking on Spain away in Elche on September 11 in their first game in the inaugural UEFA Nations League.

The presence of Real Madrid playmaker Modric, 33, and Barcelona star Rakitic, 30, comes after speculation in Croatia that the duo could retire from the national team following the remarkable run at the World Cup.

Earlier this month, goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, striker Mario Mandzukic and defender Vedran Corluka announced the end of their international careers.

Defender Ivan Strinic, who started in the World Cup final, will also be absent after his new club AC Milan revealed at the weekend he had been diagnosed with a heart condition and would have to take a break from the game.

Croatia will also play England in Group 4 of the Nations League and are due to entertain Gareth Southgate’s side in Rijeka on October 12.

Croatia squad

Goalkeepers: Lovre Kalinic (Gent/BEL), Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Karlo Letica (Club Brugge/BEL)

Defenders: Domagoj Vida (Besiktas/TUR), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool/ENG), Sime Vrsaljko (Inter/ITA), Josip Pivaric (Dynamo Kiev/UKR), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen/GER), Matej Mitrovic (Club Brugge/BEL), Borna Barisic (Rangers/SCO), Antonio Milic (Anderlecht/BEL)

Midfield: Luka Modric (Real Madrid/ESP), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona/ESP), Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea/ENG), Milan Badelj (Lazio/ITA), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter/ITA), Marko Rog (Napoli/ITA), Mario Pasalic (Atalanta/ITA), Filip Bradaric (Cagliari/ITA)

Forwards: Ivan Perisic (Inter/ITA), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim/GER), Ante Rebic (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Marko Pjaca (Fiorentina/ITA), Ivan Santini (Anderlecht/BEL), Marko Livaja (AEK/GRE).

AFP

Croatia’s Luka Modric Wins World Cup Golden Ball

Croatia's Modric Wins World Cup Golden Ball
Croatia’s midfielder Luka Modric (L) poses with the Golden Ball, next to France’s forward Kylian Mbappe, who in turn carries the Best Young Player Award after the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Croatia captain Luka Modric won the Golden Ball award for the World Cup’s best player despite being on the losing side to France in a thrilling final in Moscow on Sunday.

Modric was named man-of-the-match three times in Croatia’s seven games in Russia, but even the Real Madrid midfielder was powerless to stop France’s firepower and the rise of 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe.

READ ALSOFrance Beat Croatia To Win Second World Cup After 20 Years

The Paris Saint-Germain forward won the young player of the tournament award after scoring his fourth goal of the competition in the final, which France won 4-2.

Belgium captain Eden Hazard finished second in the running for the Golden Ball, with France’s Antoine Griezmann, who also scored his fourth goal of the tournament in the final, coming third.

Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois won the Golden Glove award for the best goalkeeper.

Despite Griezmann and Mbappe getting on the scoresheet, England’s Harry Kane claimed the Golden Boot for his six goals.

AFP

Real Madrid’s Luka Modric Charged With False Testimony 

In this file photo taken on January 13, 2018 Real Madrid’s Croatian midfielder Luka Modric controls the ball during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid and Villarreal at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid.

 

Real Madrid’s Luka Modric was on Friday charged with giving false testimony at the corruption trial of Dinamo Zagreb’s powerful former chief Zdravko Mamic, prosecutors said.

The 32-year-old midfielder was charged with “committing the criminal offence of giving false testimony” last June during a trial against Mamic and three others before a local tribunal, a prosecutors’ statement said.

In line with Croatian law the prosecutors did not name Modric as the indictee but identified him as a “Croatian citizen born in 1985.”

Local media identified him as Modric.

If found guilty, the Croatia captain faces up to five years in prison.

Mamic is accused — along with his brother Zoran Mamic and two others — of abuse of power and graft that cost the former Croatian champions more than 15 million euros ($18.4 million), and the state 1.5 million euros.

Cash was allegedly embezzled through fictitious deals related to player transfers. Modric testified last June over the details of his 2008 transfer from Dinamo to Tottenham Hotspur.

From there he joined Real Madrid in 2012.

The prosecutors charge Modric that, when questioned at the tribunal, he falsely said he had signed an annex to a contract with Dinamo over conditions for future transfers while still playing in Croatia.

In this file photo taken on June 13, 2017 Real Madrid’s midfielder Luka Modric arrives at the Osijek courthouse to testify in a multi-million-euro corruption trial against Dinamo Zagreb’s ex chairman. PHOTO: STRINGER / AFP

 

When questioned during investigations in 2015, Modric said the annex was signed after he joined Tottenham, according to the prosecutors.

Mamic is considered the most powerful man in Croatian football and his connections extend into many spheres of public life.

Most Croatian football fans see him as the real boss of the Croatian Football Federation and believe its formal chief Davor Suker is merely Mamic’s puppet.

Modric, who grew up as a refugee in Zadar on the Dalmatian coast, was highly popular in Croatia where he has a reputation for modesty.

But the testimony has tarnished his image.

AFP

Luka Modric Accused Of Tax Fraud

Real Madrid’s Luka Modric. Photo: Jack GUEZ / AFP

Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric became the latest football star in Spain accused by prosecutors of committing tax fraud on revenue from his image rights, a court filing revealed on Wednesday.

Prosecutors believe the Croatian, whose wife Vadja is also cited in the accusation, evaded 870,728 euros ($1.03 million) in 2013 and 2014 via a shell company set up in Luxembourg.

However, that figure could rise once details of financial holdings belonging to the player in the Isle of Man are revealed to Spanish authorities.

Modric, 32, joined Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur for a reported fee of £30 million ($40 million) in 2012.

He is just the latest in a series of star players based in Spain to be accused of tax fraud on income related to image rights in the past few years.

On Tuesday, Madrid left-back Marcelo admitted to a 490,917 euro tax fraud via his image rights in 2013.

As part of Marcelo’s agreement with the authorities, the Brazilian is expected to be handed a four-month suspended sentence and a fine worth 40 percent of the defrauded amount.

Real Madrid’s all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo appeared in court in July over accusations he evaded 14.7 million euros worth of tax between 2011 and 2014.

Barcelona duo Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano received 21-month and one-year suspended sentences respectively after being found guilty of tax fraud over their image rights in 2016.

However, five-time World Player of the Year Messi’s sentence was later replaced by a 252,000 euro fine.

AFP