Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel expects Luka Modric to beat Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah to the Best FIFA Men’s Player award for 2018, as the final shortlist of nominees were announced in London Monday.
Real Madrid’s Modric faces tough competition from Juventus’ Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Salah, but Denmark’s former shot-stopper thinks the creative midfielder has an extra edge over his competitors.
“Luka Modric was so incredibly good in every department of how you have to judge a good player,” Schmeichel told CNN Sport.
“First of all his history is incredible. The story that he can tell from when he was a young kid and what he has done with his football career, it makes him an interesting guy.”
‘Incredible’ World Cup
The “incredible” history Schmeichel speaks of refers to the midfielder’s childhood growing up during the Balkan war.
His father joined the Croatian army, his grandfather was shot by Croatian Serb rebels and his house was burned down, forcing the family to flee to the Adriatic coast. “The war made me stronger,” the 32-year-old once said.
The Croatian was in imperious form for both club and country last season, winning a fourth UEFA Champions League title and inspiring Croatia to its first World Cup final.
Though Croatia were beaten by France in the final, Schmeichel — who is a member of the FIFA Best Goalkeeper judging panel — believed Modric’s performances at Russia 2018 set him apart from the other candidates.
“What he did in the World Cup, together with the coach and his teammates, in producing this amazing result for Croatia is just incredible,” said Schmeichel, a five-time English Premier League winner with Manchester United.
“He was scoring goals, he was creating goals, he was fighting. He was just an incredible player in that period.”
Ronaldo, so used to scoring hattricks, is aiming to win his third consecutive Best FIFA men’s award after adding another European title to his already glittering trophy cabinet.
But both he and Modric will face stiff opposition from Egypt and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. The 26-year-old enjoyed a record breaking debut season at Anfield, scoring 44 goals and spear-heading his side’s journey to the Champions League final.
Celebrating the best
The Best FIFA Awards celebrate excellence in both the men’s and women’s game and winners are chosen based on a combination of votes from fans, national team coaches and captains.
This is the third edition of the awards, with football’s governing body having ended its association with the Ballon d’Or in 2016.
The winners will be announced on September 24.
The final shortlists
BEST MEN’S PLAYER: Luka Modric, Mohamed Salah, Cristiano Ronaldo
BEST WOMEN’S PLAYER: Marta, Dzsenifer Maroszan, Ada Hegerberg
BEST MEN’S COACH: Zlatko Dalic, Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps
BEST WOMEN’S COACH: Sarina Wiegman, Asako Takakura, Reynald Pedros
BEST GOALKEEPER: Thibaut Courtois, Hugo Lloris, Kasper Schmeichel