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Luka Modric ends Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo’s dominance

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Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric won the 2018 Ballon d’Or, becoming the first player other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to claim the award in more than a decade.




Modric, 33, won his third successive Champions League in May before helping Croatia to a first World Cup final.

Former Brazil and AC Milan forward Kaka, in 2007, was the last player other than Messi or Ronaldo to win it.

Ronaldo, who joined Juventus from Real Madrid in the summer, came second.

Barcelona forward Messi finished fifth, with Atletico Madrid frontman Antoine Griezmann and PSG attacker Kylian Mbappe – both of whom won the World Cup with France – third and fourth respectively.

Victory caps a stellar year for Modric, who also was named the world’s top male player at the Best Fifa Football Awards and received the Golden Ball award for the best player at the World Cup.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Modric, the first Croatian player to win the award. “It’s a big pleasure to be here among all these players.

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“I am still trying to realise that I have become part of a group of exceptional players to win the Ballon d’Or.”

Modric described Ronaldo and Messi as “phenomenal players”, adding: “To win means I did something really special on the pitch this year, that’s why 2017-18 was the year for me.”

The former Tottenham midfielder, who began his senior career with Dinamo Zagreb, thanked his parents for the “sacrifices” they made to allow him to become a professional.

“In my career I’ve realised that hard work and persistence in difficult moments sets the foundation to show your talent,” he added.

“One phrase I like to say: ‘The best things never come easy.’ For me to achieve all this, nothing was easy.”

Lyon and Norway striker Ada Hegerberg, 23, won the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or while Mbappe, 19, became the first winner of the Kopa Trophy – awarded to the best under-21 player and selected by former Ballon d’Or winners.

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The top 10

1. Luka Modric (Real Madrid and Croatia)

2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus and Portugal)

3. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid and France)

4. Kylian Mbappe (Paris St-Germain and France)

5. Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina)

6. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)

7. Raphael Varane (Real Madrid and France)

8. Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Belgium)

9. Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium)

10. Harry Kane (Tottenham and England)

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24 Hours Across Africa

Russian: President Putin eases access to citizenship for east Ukraine residents.

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Source: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an order simplifying the procedure for obtaining a Russian passport for residents of the rebel-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.

Separatist rebellions broke out against Ukrainian rule in both regions in 2014. Moscow provided military help for the separatists, according to evidence gathered by Reuters, though Russian officials have denied providing material support.

Large swathes of the two regions are now under the de facto control of the Moscow-backed rebels, while Kiev says it is determined to re-assert its control, a position backed by most Western countries.

There was no immediate reaction from Kiev to Putin’s order. Ukrainian officials are likely to react angrily to any indication Moscow is drawing the rebel regions closer into its own orbit.

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Machester Derby – Epl’s Most important Match of the Season

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The Manchester derby today is arguably the most important match of the season as it will determine the comfort of Liverpool on the league table or the come back of Manchester City on top, while it also may determine the place of United in the European leagues next season.

Meanwhile, Manchester City have won five of their last seven Premier League fixtures at Old Trafford (D1, L1), having triumphed in only one of the first 14 visits. A seventh away win for City would be a new Premier League record for overall wins at Old Trafford by a visiting club

Manchester United have Luke Shaw available after suspension but Phil Jones limped off during the defeat at Everton and is not expected to be fit.

Ander Herrera, who has been out for four weeks with a thigh injury, was not part of the squad which arrived at the team hotel on Tuesday.

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne will miss out after sustaining a hamstring problem last weekend.

Claudio Bravo is City’s only other injury absentee

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