London – Lionel Messi was left off the shortlist for the FIFA’s men’s player of the year award for the first time in over a decade on Monday as his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo was named alongside Luka Modric and Mohamed Salah.
Messi has dominated the award along with Ronaldo over the past decade, but the Barcelona star has been omitted from the top three for the first time since 2006.
A five-time winner of the award, Messi has also finished second in the voting for each of Ronaldo’s five previous wins in 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
Ronaldo ended a nine-year stay at Real Madrid on a high with a fourth Champions League in five years before joining Italian giants Juventus in July. Yet, that might not even be enough for the Portuguese to edge ahead in his battle for supremacy with Messi by adding his sixth crown when the winners are announced on September 24.
Ronaldo’s former Real Madrid team-mate Luka Modric is best-placed to become the first new name to win the award for 10 years after a superb season for club and country.
As well as his influential displays in Real’s Champions League triumph, the Croatia midfielder won the Golden Ball for the best player at the tournament as Croatia reached their first World Cup final, finishing as runners-up to France.
“I really hope Modric will win because I think what he did in the World Cup was really special,” said legendary former Manchester United and Denmark goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel in his role as a FIFA ambassador on Monday. “He’s this quiet guy we know from Real Madrid, but when we saw him in the World Cup he became a majestic leader.
He was wearing the captain’s armband, leading from the front, first guy to put a tackle in, and we saw a side of Luka Modric I hadn’t seen before.”