Rakitic flips Ballon d'Or support back to Messi from Modric
Ivan Rakitic had put himself in a hard spot after claiming that Real Madrid's Luka Modric is "Best in the world" following his conquests last season and in the summer which led to him being awarded UEFA Player of the Year award a few weeks back.
The award ceremony had been overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo's petulance following the snub from UEFA for the annual award, which he and his entourage felt that it was disrespectful of him to be treated in such a manner after the stellar season he enjoyed - helping Madrid to their third consecutive Champions League title.
This led to players, managers, officials, and fans alike making their stand clear on whether the Croatia captain and the player of the tournament in Russia deserved the plaudits.
Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic was one player who has, and will be, playing alongside two of the central characters revolving the ceremony - Lionel Messi for not being shortlisted in the Top 3, and Luka Modric who eventual went onto lift the prize.
In an attempt to show support for his national teammate, Modric, Rakitic had told Novi list via Goal,
"Luka is now LaLiga's big gun, he is the best player in the world this year and we Croats are very proud of him,"
Those comments had riled up a number of Lionel Messi fans, particularly from Barcelona who were not completely at ease with one of their mainstay players claiming that a player from their bitter rivals was indeed better than their Argentine talisman.
This led to the Croatian clarifying his stand on the issue while speaking to reporters ahead of Croatia's Nations League loss to Spain a few weeks ago:
"There are seasons that you can be better or not,"
"For me, in general, the best player of the world and maybe the greatest of all time is Leo Messi. It's easy, you take a boy, and nine of 10 boys are gonna say the same.
"But I think it was the year of Luka, sincerely. I think it's something that Leo and all the people know, he (Modric) deserves all the awards.
"Sincerely, if he received the award of the best European player... I don't know what he has to do to be the best player in the world, with all he did.
"I don't need to help him as a good friend of him as I am, he made everything on himself, nobody gave him anything. For me, it's clear that it has to be Luka (for The Best award)."
Now, following the win over Tottenham, the Croatian has backed his club teammate to win the biggest individual prize in the game over his international teammate.
"With all respect to other players who have won it [Ballon d'Or], we know there is a player who is different to the others and that is Leo Messi," Rakitic said post-game.
"Sometimes there are circumstances like Luka Modric doing an outstanding season and maybe people want to change a bit.
"But, with all respect, Luka and the others know there is a player who is different to the others, and that is Leo Messi."
Messi has made a strong start to the season with 10 goals in all competitions, including five in La Liga and as many in the Champions League.
He also continues to torture English sides in Europe, having added Tottenham to his list of Premier League victims on Wednesday.