Juventus great Alessandro Del Piero believes Luka Modric deserved to be named UEFA Player of the Year ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Modric helped Real Madrid to a third consecutive Champions League title before inspiring Croatia’s run to the World Cup final in Russia.
European football’s governing body rewarded the 32-year-old midfielder’s achievements with its annual gong in Monaco last Thursday, although former Madrid team-mate did not attend the gala.
Ronaldo himself has been quiet on the subject, but the player’s sister Katia Aveiro, his agent Jorge Mendes and Juventus president Giuseppe Marotta all weighed in on his behalf, before Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic responded by labelling the five-time Ballon d’Or winner an “egoist”.
Del Piero was surprised by the behaviour of the latest darling of the Juve faithful and defended Modric’s credentials.
“I understand Cristiano but Modric deserved the award,” he told Sky Italia.
“Modric did something extraordinary in Madrid and in the World Cup, so the prize was well deserved. But Cristiano also had a wonderful season.
“I would also get angry in [Ronaldo’s] place, but not going to the gala is something else. ”
And Del Piero feels the UEFA award could be seen as a precursor for football’s most coveted individual prize at the end of this year.
He said: “The Ballon d’Or? Often the winner [also] wins the UEFA prize.”
Ronaldo is without a goal in his first three matches for Juve in Serie A and Del Piero claims the division’s hard-earned reputation for stoic defending has played a part.
“In Italy we defend looking for the numerical superiority and it is complicated for a striker,” he added.
“Cristiano must get to know his new championship. Juve can be very happy. They have won all the games without his goals or those of [Paulo] Dybala.”