"It's not fair or right that our achievements get turned into a constant, populist gripe that Real Madrid benefit from favouritism", the Croatia midfielder said.
Luka Modric has given his first interview since being awarded the Ballon d'Or. Almost two weeks since he was proclaimed the best player in Europe of 2018, the Real Madrid midfielder has opened up to Croatian daily Sportske Novosti about the criticism he and the rest of his team mates have received.
Simeone's veiled barbs
Of all of the criticism Modric received from those who felt he didn't deserve to win the Ballon d'Or, the comments from Diego Simeone hurt him the most: "I can understand Simeone defending one of his own players - Griezmann, and thinking he was the best, but it's to his detriment that he feels the constant need to belittle Real Madrid and our players. He takes advantage of every opportunity to imply there is something else behind Real Madrid's triumphs which is totally false".
Modric continued: "I have great respect for Simeone and for everything that Atlético have done, I have great respect for their players, their fans and for the great club that Atlético Madrid is. When they have beaten us, we congratulate them from the heart and accept the defeat sportingly. It's not fair or right that our achievements, including both of the Champions League finals against Atlético, gets turned into a constant, populist gripe that Real Madrid benefit from favouritism".
No one like Cristiano and Messi
As for being the player to have broken the duopoly which Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have held winning the lion's share of football's individual awards over the past decade, Modric went on to say with typical humility: "For me, it's quite simple - Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi are two phenomena who have dominated the game for the past ten years. If we were voting for the quality of a player, the trophies would always go to Messi and Cristiano - while both of them are still active, there would be no need to vote. But in this case we are talking about performance and achievements over a brief period - over one season and the results come from votes cast by coaches, players and journalists.... How can they all be wrong at the same time?"