It is soon award time as the FIFA The Best and France Football’s Ballon d’Or celebrate the best of football in 2018. The current year’s FIFA The Best awards have Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah, and Luka Modric as finalists for best player, and Zinedine Zidane, Zlatko Dalic, and Didier Deschamps, as the finalists for best coach.
Though Ronaldo had great performances at the Champions League and World Cup, and Salah had a truly outstanding breakout season with Liverpool, it is Modric who also had a great Champions League and a superb World Cup, and who won both the UEFA European Player of the Year award and the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball for the best player of the tournament, who is the deserving winner this year.
When time comes for the Ballon d’Or (now back to a France Football award) there will be many who will rightly point to Kylian Mbappe’s Ligue 1 and World Cup performances, as his was an outstanding year which may yet be punctuated by superior play in this year’s domestic and Champions League opportunities. Cristiano Ronaldo will also be mentioned for the above-referenced performances, and for his consistency and longevity, particularly if he starts scoring for Juventus. But all Modric needs to do is play a contributory role in ensuring that Real Madrid maintains its place among the top Champions League, Copa del Rey, and La Liga teams in the aftermath of Ronaldo’s departure to be once again the favorite in this competition.
It may be that those voting will want to make a changing of the guard vote from the Ronaldo-Messi decade of dominance, to someone new, also be a generational changing of the guard and thus Mbappe comes out on top. But, in fairness, this is Modric’s year to win the Ballon d’Or, while the Frenchman is the odds on favorite to duke it out with Brazil’s Neymar for the next dominant world football figure.
In the FIFA The Best coaching category, things seem a bit more settled, one would think. The idea that Deschamps and Zidane are good coaches, given their recurring tactical and logical gaffes while on the sidelines, over several extended periods this year, coupled with the thought that they had much to do to manage the stellar casts they had the good fortune of coaching, seems somewhat naïve at best.
Neither Frenchman is yet much of a coach, Didier was reviled at home all the way to the final before that trophy in Russia gave him purchase. Meanwhile Zidane left Real on the heels of a terrible domestic season and just before most, including himself, thought he was to be sacked. Zidane’s Champions League win managed to save enough of a reputation for him to have hopes of a potential future coaching role, but it did not erase what we all witness him do throughout years of mismanaged opportunities at a Real Madrid then at the peak of its powers.
What Dalic accomplished, with fewer talented players, and in a much shorter span than either of his competitors had to amass their finalists’ credentials, was truly outstanding. His was a once in a lifetime performance that came at the most critical moment for his team. Had his team not played so many consecutive extra time World Cup games we might not need to be having any discussion about this. Dalic is the deserving winner of the best coach award this year both at the FIFA The Best gala and at the year-end Ballon d’Or ceremony.
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