Western Courier

Breakdown of FIFA shortlist

Haley Richards, Courier Staff

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For soccer fans, there is a heated debate that has recently popped up. FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) has released their men’s player shortlist, which is the best male athlete in international soccer. The reason why this topic has become such a controversy is the fact that one very important player was left off this year’s list.

Argentine captain Lionel Messi failed to make the cut for the world player of the year for the first time since 2006. Messi and Portugal’s captain, Cristiano Ronaldo have been the only two winners of the award since 2008. The award was narrowed down to three contenders out of 10, and voting was split evenly between fans, journalists, national team coaches and team captains. The owner of this respected award will be named on Sept. 24 in London.

Of the 10 individuals that were considered for this award were players like France’s Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, England’s Harry Kane and Belgium’s Eden Hazard. Anyone who watched this summer’s World Cup would know that narrowing down the incredible talents was no easy decision. The three finalists are Ronaldo, Egypt’s Mohamed Salah and Croatia’s captain Luka Modric.

While it may be a surprise to some that Messi was omitted from the finalists for the first time in 12 years, the achievements of the other finalist may say different. This past year, Messi has won the La Liga, the Copa del Rey and finished as the top scorer in Europe’s major leagues but unfortunately that was not enough for him.

Perhaps the voters only remember his performance in the recent World Cup. Yet to have a World Cup title to his name, Messi was heartbroken once again this past summer. Argentina was eliminated early this year, not even making it out of the group stage.

Ronaldo won the Champions League with his club team, Real Madrid, for the third time and finished as the tournament’s top scorer with 15 goals. He then had a spectacular individual performance in the World Cup but only got his team to the Round of 16.

Salah led his team, Liverpool, to the Champions League final and set a new Premiere League record with 32 goals in one season. Modric, a teammate of Ronaldo, also won the Champions League final and helped lead his country to the World Cup final, earning him the golden ball award.

Personally, I would like to see Modric win this award. Although he may not hold the individual stats that Ronaldo and Salah do, there is another aspect that voters should take into consideration. After watching both the Champions League final and almost all 64 games of the recent World Cup, Modric has earned the spot as my favorite player in professional soccer.

As a Messi fan, seeing his named excluded from the finalist has hurt but after this year of soccer, I understand the decision to leave him off. Ronaldo, Salah, and Modric have all had remarkable seasons for both their club and country but only one deserves the prestigious title.

My reasoning for choosing Modric as FIFA’s best men’s soccer player is something that cannot be seen on paper or in the stats. Modric brings something that very few players can. It is one of the most significant aspects of not only soccer, but sports in general. Modric’s heart is unmatched in today’s professional soccer era.

Part of the reason I have considered becoming a Real Madrid fan and my reasoning for rooting for Croatia in the World Cup was Modric.

Being an ex-soccer player, I enjoy watching the things that players are doing off of the ball because I think it says a lot about them as a player. It not only shows you their work ethic but their passion for the game itself.

There is one specific play of Modric’s that I remember in the World Cup. It was not a game winning goal or a remarkable free-kick, it was a pointless slide tackle. Modric was in the center of the field, the opposing team’s (I forgot who they were playing) right back played a bad ball which was going out of bounds and as the ball was rolling, I watched Modric start a dead sprint to the ball. He ran about 40-yards out of position to slide tackle the ball right before it went out of bounds. He wasn’t the closest player to the ball, and if the ball went out, Croatia would have had a throw in, but Modric chose to keep the ball in play. This might sound like an irrelevant play but it was the fact that Modric sacrificed his body and showed an effort that most players don’t put forth.

Obviously, any professional athlete sacrifices their body for their sport but then, there are players who go beyond that, because their love for the game is so strong. Some coaches, might think Modric was being wasteful of his energy but for Modric it isn’t about that. The heart that he has on the field inspires his teammates, coaches and fans like me. Both his club and professional team made it to the final in the most important matchups in soccer. He is a natural leader and is more than deserving of this award.

Most people might look at the amount of goals scored or titles earned, but in the game of soccer, more should be taken into consideration. Anyone who knows and appreciates the beautiful game can understand why Modric deserves this award.

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Breakdown of FIFA shortlist