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The world's best
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 27 - 09 - 2018

As expected, Luka Modric beat out Cristiano Ronaldo and Egypt's superstar Mohamed Salah to win the Best Player of the Year Award at the FIFA awards in London on Monday night. The outcome of the ceremony was never in doubt as fans and pundits worldwide expected Modric would win it for the first time ever after leading Croatia to the final of the World Cup and being named the best player of the tournament, as well as winning a fourth Champions League title with Real Madrid. Modric, 33, also won the UEFA Best Player award two months ago. Moreover, Ronaldo's decision to skip the gala confirmed he would not be the winner this year. Ronaldo finished second and Salah third to become the first ever Arab player to finish in the top three in the world.
Voted for by national team coaches and captains, select members of the media and an online vote, it was the first time in 10 years that neither Ronaldo nor Lionel Messi collected the award, notching it five times apiece.
The men's Best Coach went to French National Team Coach Didier Deschamps whose side beat Modric's Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup final.
Salah did not go home empty handed as he won the Puskas Award for Best Goal, his unbelievable strike against Everton last season. The Puskas Award was given to the best goal scored last season worldwide, not just in the top European leagues and competitions. Salah's strike beat off competition from Gareth Bale's bicycle kick against Liverpool in the Champions League final as well as Ronaldo's similar strike against Juventus in the same competition, thanks to the voting public as this specific award is decided by fan vote.
Admittedly it was impossible for Salah to win best player at the expense of Modric since the Croatian magician had a truly exceptional year leading his nation to an unlikely World Cup final at the expense of huge names England, Argentina, Brazil, Belgium and others. Modric was the star man of Croatia throughout the competition and was considered the biggest reason they made it that far even though they got battered by France in the final. Moreover, his role in helping Real Madrid win another Champions League title cannot be ignored.
Since the award has always been about winning titles, we all knew Salah's nomination, despite not winning any trophies with Liverpool or Egypt, was a miracle in itself especially when considering that one of the best players in the history of the game, Messi, was overlooked despite winning the Spanish League while Antoine Greizmann and Kylian Mbappe were overlooked despite the pair winning the Europa League, French League and the World Cup. Salah can only look back at this day and feel proud because he made all his fans around the world prouder than ever.
Salah
The one drawback of the day was the shocking exclusion of Salah from the FIFA XI of the year. How he was not included in the best 11 players of the year despite being chosen as one of the best three players on the planet is something no one from FIFA has explained. It wasn't only Salah who was left out. Thibaut Courtois who won the Best Goalkeeper in the world wasn't chosen as the goalkeeper of the FIFA dream team, much to the shock of football fans and pundits around the world. David de Gea, Messi, Mbappe and Hazard were included in the XI while Salah and Courtois were not, which only shows the dark side of FIFA and sometimes dubious decision-making process. The team was made up of David de Gea, Dani Alves, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Modric, N'Golo Kante, Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe and Ronaldo.
However, the character showed by Salah throughout his career especially after joining Liverpool, means he'll only be motivated to do even better this season and have another go at the award as best player. He has already started the season in fine form as his three goals and two assists in the first six games has helped Liverpool record six wins in a row to go top of the league and show they're in for a big season. If Salah manages to lead the Reds to a league or Champions League title, this will surely help his bid to win the best player in the world next year. “Nothing is impossible” and “stop dreaming” were the words Salah said when he won the African Player of the Year last season. So now, don't stop believing in Mo Salah.
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The writer is a freelance journalist.


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