Luka Modric has beaten off competition from the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi to be named the winner of 2018’s Ballon d’Or.
With France having won the World Cup, Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and even Modric’s fellow Madrid team-mate Raphael Varane had been amongst the favourites alongside the evergreen duo of Ronaldo and Messi.
However, the Croatian’s exploits across the year – which included being awarded the Golden Ball at the World Cup – have seem him emerge ahead of the rest of the pack and become the first from his country to lift the award.
Indeed, Modric has become the first player to break Messi and Ronaldo’s duopoly of the award since 2007, with Brazil icon Kaka being the last to lift the trophy before the Argentine and Portuguese stars collected five each across the following years.
“It’s a unique feeling,” he said as he accepted the award. “I’m happy, proud and it’s an honor. Extraordinary emotions at the moment.
“I just want to thank all those who helped me to be here tonight. I thank my teammates, my coaches, the staff and Real Madrid, all those who work there, the coaches and teammates in the national team, the ones who voted for me and my family, who allow me to blossom as a person.
“Always have dreams, I wanted to play in a big club, win titles, the Ballon d’Or is all I could dream as a child, it’s an honor to win it tonight.
“It’s a great pleasure to be here around his players. I keep thinking I’m trying to get used to being part of this group of exceptional players who have won the Ballon d’Or previously. It’s a great pleasure to be part of this group. It’s hard to say, throughout my career I understood that work, persistence, believing in yourself, is the basis for expressing your talent. I like the phrase: the best is never easy. For me, it was not easy. It was necessary to seize the opportunities.”
The midfielder believes changing his role in midfield has been a turning point in his career, saying it all came together while he was at Tottenham.
“Changing position allowed me to develop my game, before I was more an offensive player. When I retreated, I had a better vision of the game, I could better express my creativity, my game. In my second year in Tottenham, I played midfielder and I felt better in the middle.”
Modric finished ahead of his former Madrid team-mate Ronaldo in the vote, making the Portuguese icon settle for second place for the first time in three years.
France star Griezmann took third place in the poll, with fellow World Cup winner Mbappe was close behind. Messi, meanwhile, dropped outside the top two for the first time in 11 years and came in fifth this time.