Luka Modric was the toast of the Bernabéu on Wednesday night as the crowd sang their opinion that he should win the Ballon d’Or. There was also a rousing reception for unlikely cult hero Kostas Manolas while the Real Madrid money men had their hands full before a ball had even kicked.
Modric Ballon d’Or?
We rather suspect someone French is likely to be in line for the oft-referenced big shiny one but the Bernabéu – who chanted to that effect - and several other observers are convinced it should be awarded to Luka Modric. The Croatian won the Golden Ball at the World Cup and was recently named Uefa Men’s Player of the Year for 2017-18 so going on the basis of Golden Globes = Oscars he should be a shoo-in. Not according to Casemiro, though. “I'd give it to Cristiano,” Modric’s club teammate said.
Love doesn’t Kostas a thing
Roma’s Greek defender Kostas Manolas received a huge cheer when his name was announced over the stadium tannoy on Wednesday. The 27-year-old international is a popular figure in Madrid after netting the goal that knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League last season. Roma were 4-1 down from the first leg of the quarter-final tie and were firm favourites to progress but pulled off a stunning comeback to win 3-0 at the Estadio Olimpico with Manolas bagging the decisive strike in the 81st minute.
Mariano for Spain?
The returning striker got off the mark with a stunning strike during his 15-minute cameo that sent three messages at once, to Karim Benzema, Julen Lopetegui and Luis Enrique. For the first time in a long time the Frenchman now faces a genuine challenger for his place in Real’s starting line-up while Lopetegui has a viable option off the bench, something his predecessors might view with a tinge of envy. Mariano’s glorious hit and possession of the famous number shirt is also something for Luis Enrique to mull, given Spain’s lack of an undisputed starting striker. “I would love a call from Luis Enrique, I hope I can be in the national team,” Mariano, who once represented the Dominican Republic in a friendly but was born in Barcelona, said.
Money, money, money…
The Bernabéu suits will have allowed themselves a rare grin as news emerged on Wednesday ahead of the Roma game that due to a new Uefa ranking system for Champions League sides – of which Madrid sit top – the club trousered 50.7 million euros in revenue for reaching this season’s group stage and due to their historical success over the last decade. Not bad before the evening’s work had even begun.