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Year Ender 2018: The year of the French, gold for Modric and change of thrones

Despite the two superstars dominating football headlines on a daily basis, it has been Croatia and Real Madrid midfield maestro Modric who has bagged all the individual awards, ending Messi, Ronaldo's duopoly.

Brett Ellis Written by: Brett Ellis @Brettellis1907 New Delhi Published on: December 30, 2018 15:48 IST
Year Ender 2018 Football
Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

2019 already has fans ready for what's next to come.

1998, France lifted their first ever world cup and a star was embedded above the national logo on their jersey. 20 years later, the second star was added through a young, enthusiastic team, with a then 19-year old boy leading the way. France lifted their second world cup in 2018 through a dominant campaign in Russia. The Frenchmen mauled Croatia 4-2 in the finals. However, despite Les Blues winning the all exalted coveted trophy, it was finalist Croatia's skipper, Luca Modric, who bagged all the individual silverware. 

While Lionel Messi's chance of winning the World Cup for Argentina are all but over, Ronaldo made a surprise move away from Madrid to Turin after a fall out with club president Florentina Perez, which also saw coach Zinedine Zidane make a shocking exit. 

Despite the two superstars dominating football headlines on a daily basis, it has been Croatia and Real Madrid midfield maestro Modric who has bagged all the individual awards, ending Messi, Ronaldo's duopoly. 

He won the FIFA's Best Player, the golden boot in the World Cup and also bagged the prestigious Ballon d'Or, ending Messi and Ronaldo's 10-year successive reign. The last time a player won the award before these two superstars took over, it was Brazil and AC Milan's Kaka, who won the award in 2007. 

Despite many critics and football fans felt Modric winning the awards was erroneous, there has been a shift of momentum in football. 

Real Madrid won their third successive Champions League, this time with Liverpool being their victims, but their form has been ghastly and dreadful. Since Zidane stepped down, the Los Blancos appointed then Spain coach Julen Lopetegui as the Frenchman's successor, but the team was never the same without their star forward and attacking coach. Lopetegui's tenure as coach soon came to an end after Madrid were humiliated in the El Clasico, with rivals FC Barcelona putting five across a team which included their star regulars barring Ronaldo. Madrid have appointed former Real player Santiago Solari as their new coach but despite the changes, Madrid are still struggling.

Talking of sacking, Chelsea FC sacked coach Antonio Conte, despite him leading the Blues to winning the FA Cup. In two years with Chelsea, Conte won the Premier League on his debut season and won the FA Cup in the other. Maurizio Sarri was appointed as the new coach. Under the attacking style, Chelsea are finding their grooves in the Premier League, with Eden Hazard leading from the front. 

Chelsea's neighbour's Arsenal also saw a shift in paradigm as after 22 years, Arsene Wenger left the club. The relation with the fans, players and management became toxic, and eventually, after a long period of turmoil, Wenger decided to leave the club. Former PSG coach Unai Emery, who was also shown the door at the end of the season, was appointed as Wenger's successor. Under Emery, Arsenal had an unbeaten 22-game run in all formats before Southampton edged them, followed by being knocked out by rivals Tottenham Hotspurs in the Carabao Cup. 

Manchester United received an early Christmas present as the board sacked Jose Mourinho after a poor run on his third season in charge, The Portuguese coach's relationship with the players and management became sour, with plenty of players threatening to leave the club, which included their 'prized' possession, Paul Pogba. Former United player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been appointed as United's caretaker manager and can be made permanent once the wins start flowing.

Besides the World Cup fiasco for Argentina, Messi has been in front of goal for FC Barcelona, once again claiming the golden shoe for the most goals in a season, a record five in a row. He broke a few records which include, most LaLiga wins by a Barcelona player (323), the only player to score 10+ goals in 13 consecutive LaLiga seasons, most goals for a single club in Champions League (106), most Champions League hat-tricks (8), 50+ goals in the last nine calendar years. 

Speaking being in front of goals, football has found it's new star in 20-year old World Cup winner, Kyllian Mbappe. The youngster has been the new face with Paris Saint Germain after he led Monaco to win the French League (Ligue 1) in 2016. He was immediately bought by Paris Saint Germain. The French giants the same year purchased the services of Brazilian superstar from FC Barcelona for a world record signing, Neymar. He recently became the recipient to win first ever Kopa Trophy and also won the Ligue 1 player of the year, twice (2017,18) and became the first teenager to be a part of the FIFA Pro Word XI. He won the best young player in the Russia World Cup as well. 

Coming to the signings this transfer window, the biggest shocker of the year was when 5-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo upset the world when he shifted from Madrid to Turin. Juventus signed the Portuguese player for 100 Million Pounds. Life in Turin has been a topsy-turvy road so far for the former Real player, but his team is on top of the league and have their sights on the Champions League, with the star striker leading from the front. 

Liverpool bought Xherdan Shaqiri who has made an instant impact along with Naby Keita. Arsenal brought in Lucas Torreria, who has been the backbone for the new Gunners under Unai Emery. Sarri brought along Jorginho to Chelsea, who has been orchestrating the Blues midfield along with N'Golo Kante. Borussia Dortmund, on the other hand, have been indestructible at the moment with youngster Jadon Sancho and on-loan Paco Alcacer. The duo has changed the atmosphere with Dortmund, leading them to the top of the table with their eyes set on the league title since they last won in the 2011-2012 season. 

With the year coming to end, there is plenty of football left this season, with the race for the Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga being wide open. The Champions League has all of Europe's heavyweights, starting with some mouth-watering clashes in the last 16 such as Manchester United facing PSG, Liverpool locking horns with Bayern Munich, Tottenham vs Borussia Dortmund. 

2019 already has fans ready for what's next to come. 

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