The winner of the 2018 Ballon d’Or was leaked online hours before the ceremony even began, confirming Croatia captain Luka Modric as the recipients.
Modric, who led his country to the final of the World Cup, as well as playing a huge part in Real Madrid’s third consecutive Champions League triumph, became the first player who name isn’t Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to win the award since 2007.
He was the heavy favourite going into the ceremony having already collected Fifa’s The Best award, football’s governing body’s own version of the Ballon d’Or.
cqui mfume dans les leaks du #BallondOr c’est que y’a quelques gars qui se sont dit “tiens ouais Benzema et Godin ils meritent le ballon d’or pour la saison qu’ils viennent de faire!!!” pic.twitter.com/1V1bkuvN0d
Staggered approach the right move? Yes, I think it’s a decent compromise, given the issues FFA were faced with — in particular, the opposition from the Sydney clubs to the immediate expansion into the city. This gives the Wanderers time to bed in back in Parramatta, and the SW Sydney bid the time to start on redevelopment of Campbelltown, build identity, brand and a fan base. Ideally, this would be the process for ALL expansion teams going forward. Select — then allow a year (or two, or three), to get ready.
Were the right bids selected? I think all the bids had positives and negatives. For example, Southern Expansion had money, but the three-centre location was a concern. Team 11 had a stadium plan, and a huge diverse area, but not a guarantee of funding. In the end, South West Sydney looked a solid bet in a good catchment area, while Western Melbourne offer something unique in a purpose-built football stadium, which I hope will be the game-changer for the sport in Australia.
Staggered approach the right move? The most important thing was to have two licenses rubber-stamped. That is great and is a sign of positivity and boldness from the new board. Unless you are sitting around that boardroom looking at the finances of the FFA and balancing what the clubs want, fans want, broadcasters want and what the FFA ultimately desires you can’t strongly criticise the decision. All we can do is trust that it’s the right one. Smart people feel that it’s the best move for the game based on the status of the two accepted bids so I’m happy to be on board with that.
Were the right bids selected? See the answer to question 1 in a sense but in terms of Western Melbourne they can set a precedent in Australian football and an important one by building, owning and operating their own stadium. That is rightly a massive factor. South West Sydney is a massive growth area and a huge football area so that’s encouraging. Sure, finances played bit it must to an extent — the last thing we want is new franchises going bust again! Importantly the bids that missed out who we feel for must be cultivated so we can get to 14 teams as soon as possible.
Staggered approach the right move? Given that expansion appeared off the agenda for next season just a matter of weeks ago, the fact we have two new teams to look forward to over the next two years is awesome. I would have preferred both teams in next year, but perhaps the bye will raise the quality of football even higher, because players will get regular breaks throughout the season to rejuvenate and stay fresh.
Were the right bids selected? I’ll trust the FFA made the right decision on this. The promise of a purpose-built stadium for the new Melbourne team is just awesome! And the ready made seldom used rectangular stadium for the new Sydney franchise is another big win. Imagine Mile Jedinak leading them out on night one!
The first player born in the 21st century to play in La Liga for Real Madrid, Brazilian starlet Vinicius Junior has arrived impressively to the top level in recent months, with the still just 18-year-old dealing admirably with all the pressure and attention which comes with coming so far so fast.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in July 2000, Vinicius Jose Paixao de Oliveira Junior joined his city’s Club de Regatas do Flamengo as a 10-year-old and was soon being well known locally for his dazzling skills and ball control.
The youngster then first came on the radar of many international observers when finishing as top scorer as Brazil won the 2015 South American U-15 championship in December 2015, and then completing the same double as his national team won the continental Under-17 championship in March 2017.
A senior club debut with Flamengo in Brazil’s Serie A soon arrived, and within a few months a deal was agreed to take him to Madrid as soon as FIFA rules for the transfer of young players allowed.
That move was completed when he turned 18 in July 2018, and he joined up with the Bernabeu outfit for pre-season training last summer along with galacticos like Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos.
“This is the best opportunity a football player can have,” Vinicius said at July’s presentation event at the Bernabeu.
“I will sacrifice a lot to show I deserve this opportunity. But sacrifice is not something new for me, I come from a very simple family, and am very proud of all they did for me, and the values they have taught me. Now I am the peak of world football, at Real Madrid.”
A first game in a Los Blancos shirt followed in a pre-season International Champions Cup game against Manchester United in Miami, when he immediately filled the left-sided attacking role previously held by Madrid’s all-time record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo.
Vinicius then began the regular season training daily with Madrid’s seniors but playing with their Castilla youth side.
He settled in impressively quickly to football in Spain’s third tier, with four goals and one assist in his first five games. A perfectly flighted free kick at Celta Vigo B especially stood out, as Castilla coach Santi Solari was repaid for the confidence shown.
Then Madrid first team coach Julen Lopetegui saw enough to give Vinicius his senior LaLiga debut as substitute in September’s huge ‘derbi’ against neighbours Atletico Madrid at the Bernabeu.
A first start for Madrid’s first team came in Solari’s first game after replacing Lopetegui as Blancos first team boss in October, a 4-0 Copa del Rey last 32 first leg victory at third-tier Melilla.
The display included the expected skills and pace, but also impressive maturity and game intelligence. He played vital roles in two Madrid goals, and almost got on the scoresheet himself with 16 yard drive which rattled the crossbar.
The following weekend Vinicius was in action again back at the Bernabeu, entering from the bench with a LaLiga game against Valladolid locked at 0-0.
Within minutes he had showed impressive confidence and positivity with a run and shot which was deflected to the net to break the deadlock.
Another assist soon followed during a dazzling substitute cameo in a 5-0 Champions League victory against Viktoria Plzen.
Such displays have lead to Vinicius’ nomination for the 2018 Golden Boy Award, a prestigious prize previously won by his clubmate Isco in 2012, and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in 2005.
This is unlikely to be the last individual recognition for one of LaLiga’s most impressive rising stars.
Watch Matchday 15 of LaLiga Santander this weekend on beIN Sports.