Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic has said international teammate Luka Modric is the outstanding player over the last year but reiterated his belief that Lionel Messi remains the best in the world.
Modric was named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year last month and is one of three players in the running for FIFA’s The Best, along with Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah — with Messi failing to make the world player of the year shortlist for the first time since 2006.
Modric won the Champions League with Real Madrid last season and helped Croatia reach the World Cup final, where they lost to France, and Rakitic backed his Croatia colleague over his Barca teammate.
“Messi is the best player in the world and in the history of the game [but this year] Luka deserves everything,” Rakitic told reporters. “Everyone in Croatia is delighted for him [winning the UEFA award] because it’s a prize for the whole country.
“It would surprise me if he didn’t win any more awards.”
Despite leading Barca to a league and cup double, Rakitic’s club teammate Messi has not been in the running for any individual awards this year. The Argentine did not make the podium for UEFA Men’s Player of the Year and was also left off the three-man shortlist for The Best.
Barca striker Luis Suarez told ESPN that Messi’s omission does not mean he is not the best player in the world. Spain coach Luis Enrique, meanwhile, was surprised to not see the Barca forward not among the nominees for FIFA’s main individual award for the first time since 2006.
“The award for the best player in the world? I would give it to Messi, he is a step above everyone else,” the former Barcelona boss said on Monday.