The omission of Argentine maestro, Lionel Messi from the top three of the award for “FIFA The Best” came as an expected surprise; expected due to the fact that the Argentine national team performed woefully at the 2018 edition of The World Cup, surprise due to the fact that his name is a regular fixture at the awards coupled with his status as a football great.
The players who made the final three for the awards are Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, Luka Modric of Croatia and Mohamed Salah of Egypt and it is a straight toss up between Ronaldo and Modric who both helped Real Madrid to a 13th UEFA Champions League title by defeating Liverpool FC in Kiev, Ukraine. The argument for Salah is the incredible debut season he had with Liverpool where he scored 44 goals in all competitions but they finished trophyless which rules him out.
Modric won UEFA’s award for best player of the year last season, which drew condemnation from Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, for snubbing the top goalscorer in the Champions League which should also work in Modric’s favour. Considering that the World Cup is the major competition the award is based on, Modric ticks all the boxes because he won the Golden Ball for the best player at Russia 2018 ahead of the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe who starred for winners, France.
All hope is not lost for the iconic duo of Messi and Ronaldo they have been nominated for the Puskas award alongside Gareth Bale and Mohamed Salah. The prize is given to the best goal scored in a season, and a total of 10 players are set to battle for the prize, with the likes of Benjamin Pavard and Ricardo Quaresma also nominated.
Bale’s sublime overhead goal against Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League finals was edged out by Cristiano Ronaldo for the Goal of the Champions League Tournament who won due to his similar effort against Juventus in the semi-finals which drew a standing ovation from the opposing fans, but that could be flipped on his head at the Puskas Awards.
A number of World Cup strikes are included in the nominations, most notably defender Benjamin Pavard, who scored a stunning volleyed effort in France’s brilliant win over Argentina.
Denis Cheryshev’s super strike for Russia against Croatia is also a potential winner, while Messi’s slaloming run and finish against Nigeria is among the voting, along with Quaresma’s sublime outside of the boot effort versus Iran. Mohamed Salah’s strike in the Merseyside derby against Everton is also in the running for the award.
The award for “FIFA The Best Coach” is going to be a tussle among Zinedine Zidane who coached Real Madrid to a third champions league title in a row; Didier Deschamps who guided France to a 2nd FIFA World Cup triumph in Russia; and Zlatko Dalic who guided Croatia to their best ever finish at a FIFA competition as they finished runner-up to France and this is despite taking over in October 2017 to oversee their last qualifying game and then take them through the playoffs.
The awards ceremony will take place at a gala event on September 24 in London, United Kingdom.
Opinion poll: Who do you tip to win the award for “FIFA Best Men’s Player”?