World Cup 2018: Top five contenders for the Golden Ball
With the 21st edition of the football's biggest tournament drawing to a close, I present the five players who have distinguished themselves the most, leading their countries into the the latter stages of the World Cup 2018 by delivering superb performances on the grandest stage of world football.
The FIFA World Cup Golden Ball (called Adidas Golden Ball for commercial reasons) is given to the tournament's best player and was officially introduced in the 1982 edition of the World Cup held in Spain, with Italy's Paolo Rossi winning the inaugural award.
The shortlist for the award is drawn up by FIFA's technical committee with representatives of the media deciding the winner through a voting process. The current holder of the Golden Ball is Lionel Messi, after helping Argentina to a second place finish in Brazil four years ago.
It is pertinent to note that only three of the previous nine Golden Ball winners have come from the World Cup-winning team (Rossi in 1982, Maradona in 1986, and Romario in 1994).
The following are the major contenders for this year's World Cup Golden Ball by virtue of their outstanding performances thus far.
#1 LUKA MODRIC
The 32-year-old will captain Croatia in her first ever World Cup final and 'The Chequered Ones' are there thanks in a large part to Modric. He has contributed two goals and one assist to the Croatian cause and was always a calming influence in the middle of the park, providing defense splitting passes.
The creative driving force behind Croatia's run to the final, Modric has been the world's standout playmaker over the last five seasons, with his uncanny ability to dictate the tempo of games from midfield proving to be the catalyst for most of Real Madrid's attacks, and he brought his abilities to the fore for his national team at the World Cup.
His overall importance to his team can be best seen in the group stage match against Argentina where his beautiful strike from 22 yards for Croatia's second goal dampened Argentine spirits, before he went on to provide an assist for Rakitic to score Croatia's third.
Modric has gone about his business in his naturally unflamboyant way, but his impact on this World Cup has been felt, and there have even been loud whispers of a Ballon d'or win. If he can lead his country to a World Cup victory, then that is definitely a possibility.