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Who makes the ICC's Naughty and Nice List 2018?

By Matt Gault, Football Whispers

It's been quite a year for soccer. We've had a World Cup to remember, Real Madrid completing a hat-trick of Champions League wins, Manchester City smashing all kinds of records in the Premier League and, of course, an enthralling two-legged Superclásico Copa Libertadores final between Boca Juniors and River Plate.

And now, as we contemplate what's in store during 2019, we've decided to reflect on the year that was and highlight a few players who will surely pop up on Santa's Naughty and Nice list.

The Nice List

Luka Modrić

It would have been difficult to discuss 2018 without the Croatian genius' name entering the conversation.

Modrić, who earlier this month became the first player other than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi since Kaká in 2007 to win the prestigious Ballon d'Or, has enjoyed an annus mirabilis.

The masterful deep-lying playmaker clinched his fourth UEFA Champions League crown with Real Madrid and went on to captain Croatia at the World Cup in Russia, proving instrumental as Zlatko Dalić's men reached the final.

Although they came up just shy against France, Modrić's performances were rewarded with the Golden Ball for the tournament's best player.

Modrić has had a lot of good years in football but 2018 was unquestionably his best.

Alireza Beiranvand

The Iranian goalkeeper ran away from home when he was young, grew up homeless, and used to sleep outside his local team's football stadium, where passers-by would mistake him for a beggar.

At the World Cup, he saved a penalty against Cristiano Ronaldo. It's important to recognise dreams coming true.

Steven N'Zonzi

The Frenchman showed a gentle and generous side when during France's World Cup celebrations, N'Zonzi asked his compatriots to let N'Golo Kanté hold the famous trophy for the first time as the Chelsea man was too shy to do it himself.

Kylian Mbappé

The gifted Frenchman, who recently celebrated his 20th birthday, was a standout performer at the World Cup, scoring four goals to help Les Bleus become world champions.

Mbappé received the Best Young Player award for his exciting displays and, while he was happy to place that gong on his mantlepiece, the youngster felt he did not need to be renumerated for playing for his country, donating all his earnings to charity.

Jadon Sancho

Borussia Dortmund's gifted 18-year-old was most likely going to make the list anyway but Sancho recently provided one of the most touching moments of the year.

Sancho dedicated his winning goal in the Revierderby against Schalke to his late grandmother. With just over 15 minutes remaining, the former Manchester City starlet struck the decisive blow as Dortmund went nine points clear atop the Bundesliga.

Sancho wasn't thinking about the table, though. "The goal means everything to my family. Sadly, my grandmother passed away, so that goal was for her," Sancho told FOX Sports.

Wayne Rooney

Another regular donator to charity, Rooney also made every effort to gel with his new team-mates following his move to DC United. Manchester United and England's all-time leading scorer revealed he turned down first-class travel and private hotel rooms as he wanted to be treated like the rest of his peers.

While that boosted the striker's popularity, his performances proved most effective in making him an MLS star. Bottom of the table when he arrived, Rooney helped transform DC's fortunes and clinch an unlikely play-off spot.

Rooney was named the MLS Player of the Month for October and was included as one of three forwards in the Best XI alongside LA Galaxy's Zlatan Ibrahimović and Atlanta United frontman Josef Martínez.

James Pallotta

The Roma president made headlines in April when he jumped into the city's Piazza del Popolo fountain to celebrate after the Giallorossi's stunning Champions League win over FC Barcelona.

He was subsequently fined more than $500 for jumping in but donated approximately $264,000 to help fix it.

Atlanta United

In only their second season in the MLS, Atlanta became champions. Having finished second in the Eastern Conference, The Five Stripes beat New York City FC and New York Red Bulls to set up a final date with Portland Timbers, which they won to cap a phenomenal rise to the pinnacle of the US game.

It was also the perfect ending for Gerard 'Tata' Martino, who left his role as head coach after guiding them to glory.

Tottenham Hotspur

Last but certainly not least, the International Champions Cup winners of 2018 made it a tournament to remember this summer.

After beating Roma 4-1 in San Diego, Spurs battled back to draw 2-2 with Barcelona before edging Milan 1-0 to clinch their first ICC title and give them a jolt of momentum ahead of the new Premier League season.

Naughty List

Shin Tae-yong

The South Korea coach came up with an inventive way of confusing opponents by making his players wear different numbered shirts in friendlies before the World Cup.

"We switched them around because we didn't want to show our opponents everything and to try and confuse them," said Shin.

"They might know a few of our players but it is very difficult for Westerners to distinguish between Asians and that's why we did that."

Jefferson Lerma

Having picked up 16 yellow cards for Levante last season, the tough-tackling Colombian has continued apace with Bournemouth. Lerma currently has seven bookings in 13 appearances, putting him well on the way to breaking the record for most yellow cards in a Premier League season.

Sergio Ramos

The Real Madrid captain led Los Blancos to their third successive European crown but his challenge on Mohamed Salah spelt a premature end to the Liverpool forward's involvement in the Champions League and left him fighting for fitness ahead of Egypt's involvement in the World Cup.

Diego Chará

Like his compatriot Lerma, the Portland Timbers midfielder tends to pick up cautions at an eye-catching rate. The 32-year-old picked up 11 yellow cards during the MLS 2018 season as the Timbers finished runners-up in the MLS Cup.

Carlos Sánchez

Yes, another Colombian midfielder, but Sánchez's inclusion is definitely warranted. Three minutes into Los Cafeteros' World Cup campaign, the West Ham man was dismissed for a deliberate handball against Japan, immediately putting his country on the backfoot. Japan went on to win the game 2-1.

READ MORE: WHAT I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS – FC BAYERN AND BORUSSIA DORTMUND

 
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