'It wasn't personal' – Croatia coach Dalic apologises for Ronaldo 'egoist' jibe

The coach says his comments about the Juventus star were taken the wrong way, but apologised ahead of the clash with Portugal

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has apologised for branding Cristiano Ronaldo an “egoist” after the Juventus star failed to attend Thursday’s UEFA ceremony where his former team-mate Luka Modric beat him to the Player of the Year award.

Having won the Champions League last season at Real Madrid, it was unsurprising to see Keylor Navas, Sergio Ramos, Modric and Ronaldo sweep up trophies for their respective positions.

But Ronaldo, who left Madrid for Juventus in July, was nowhere to be seen at the event, with some suggesting his absence was a response to being snubbed in favour of Modric for the main prize.

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Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes, Juve president Beppe Marotta and the forward’s sister, Katia Aveiro , were all among those to criticise UEFA.

And while Dalic took aim at Ronaldo, he concedes he might have gone too far in saying “Ronaldo is an egoist and I’d never want him in my team” .

“I regret that,” Dalic told reporters ahead of Thursday’s friendly with Portugal, a game Ronaldo will not be featuring in.

“It was part of my answer to question why Ronaldo did not attend the UEFA ceremony and about negative comments on Luka getting the award, so I said it was selfish of Cristiano and I don’t like such players.

“[It was] nothing personal or negative, maybe just presented wrong and I am sorry.

“For FIFA’s The Best award, I voted for Modric and put Cristiano as number two.

“Luka deserves it because he was voted the best player at the Club World Cup, was world and European champion with Real, won a silver medal at the World Cup and the World Cup Golden Ball on top of that.

“No other player won so much this year. Cristiano is one of best players of all time, but this year Luka was better.”

Ronaldo will miss Thursday’s clash after coach Fernando Santos gave the 33-year-old permission to skip their next two matches due to “all the processes of adaptation” his move to Juventus has entailed, but Dalic would have preferred the Ballon d’Or holder to feature.

“I’d love it if Cristiano could have played tomorrow,” Dalic added. “But we also have [Ivan] Rakitic resting.

“Ronaldo deserves rest. Some players need more time after the World Cup to reach top form. Maybe we’ll have the chance to face him at Euro 2020.”