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Why Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi should be in FIFA Awards final three

Monday 10th September 2018

As the FIFA best player award approaches, it is curious to see who will be given the top prize. World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi, who led Barcelona to the double, were both ignored. The shortlist of the top three players makes one question the basis for the award.

The final three in the list are Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah and Luka Modric. All three reached the Champions League final. Ronaldo and Modric won it. Salah had a great season. He was named PFA Player of the Year in England. His goals helped Liverpool reach the final and secure a top-four finish in the Premier League. But he finished the season with zero trophies.

The Egyptian competed for five trophies last season: the FA Cup, League Cup, Premier League title, Champions League and the World Cup. He won none. He edged Kevin De Bruyne to the Player of the Year award as a result of a superior goal count. But when European and World football as a whole is considered, Salah will have to take a back seat to the likes of Ronaldo, Messi, Griezmann and even Luka Modric.

Speaking of Modric, he won the UEFA Player of the Year award on Monday to the surprise of many. Of course, no one can deny the fact that the Croatian is among the best players in the world at the moment. In fact, he has been there for some years now and has been one of the key reasons for Real Madrid's success both in La Liga and on the continent.

But for everything Modric has done, Ronaldo has done more. And head-to-head, Messi is a far better player than the Croatian midfielder. That's why Modric has consistently queued behind the duo. Even Griezmann, who came third in the ranking in 2016, and Neymar have been ahead of Modric in the pecking order.

It's fair to say that Ronaldo and Messi have achieved so much success that it's now taken for granted. Otherwise, how do you explain 80 coaches and 55 journalists voting overwhelmingly for Modric in an award that is based on success in Europe in the 2017/18 season?

Ronaldo, not Modric, was the star man in a Real Madrid team that broke records to lift a third successive Champions League trophy. The Portuguese scored 15 goals, more than anyone else in the competition. The Croatian made one strike. Ronaldo gave three assists, Modric none.

It was Ronaldo, not Modric who scored the wonder goal against Juventus that was voted goal of the season. It was he who had nerves of steel to blast home a 97th-minute penalty at the Santiago Bernabéu to send Los Blancos through to the final. Surely that has to count for something?

Yes, Modric captained Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia. Unfortunately, like Angel Di Maria, who won the UCL and reached the WC final in 2014, he didn't win it. And like Di Maria wasn't given UEFA best player award, Modric didn't deserve it. Simply because someone else did better.

In any case, should WC performance be factored into the decision for the best player in Europe? UEFA has no jurisdiction over the WC. The body's own criteria are based on its competitions. The UCL is top of the list.

Having given the midfielder the award, with attention now on the FIFA awards, many are already tipping him to win it too. That would represent a real injustice.

Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi had such good seasons they should be rated above the Real Madrid midfielder. Both Messi and Griezmann played in the same Liga with Modric; both outperformed him. The Barcelona man scored 34 goals and made 12 assists while the Atletico Madrid star had 19 and nine. The Real Madrid midfielder potted one goal and set up six. The duo's goals helped their teams finish above Madrid in the league table. Ignoring Messi and Griezmann calls the award's credibility into question.

The Argentine won La Liga and Copa del Rey. He was also the star man for his team. He single-handedly took Argentina to the WC with his stunning hat-trick against Ecuador. At the event, he scored once and provided two assists as the South Americans bowed out in the second round to eventual winners, France.

Lucas Hernandez weighed in on the argument for his teammate at both club and country.

Antoine deserves it. He is my favourite. He has been a key man in all of the major competitions he has played in this year. He has won almost everything and contributed everywhere.

The French striker won the Europa League and the World Cup. He also starred for his team. He scored six goals for Atleti in that competition and four more for France, adding two assists. He doubled Modric's numbers for Croatia and was on the winning side.

An ideal reflection of the season would see Ronaldo, Messi and Griezmann make the top three. Either of Ronaldo or Messi would then win it based on the fact that one-on-one they were better than the French forward.

UEFA Champions League Groups
Emmanuel Odey

Emmanuel is a freelance football journalist who lives and breathes the round leather game. He is a contributor on several platforms. You can follow him on Twitter for more.


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