Midfielder Luka Modric playing for Real Madrid opened a new chapter in the Ballon d’Or (Golden Ball) history as he became the first Croatian to claim the best player award here on Monday.
The 33-year-old Modric received his trophy during a ceremony held in the iconic Grand Palace in the French capital.
“It feels amazing. I’m proud to win this beautiful award. It’s difficult to express my emotions by words. It’s something unique for me,” admitted Modric.
It was the latest recognition for his achievement and contribution throughout the year, following the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award and the Best FIFA Men’s Player.
Modric ended the past decade dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the award, as the two superstars claimed it five times apiece. The Croatian had also terminated Ronaldo and Messi’s 10-year duopoly in the FIFA award in September.
Modric beat Ronaldo, Frenchman Antoine Griezmann and another France World Cup winning member Kylian Mbappe in the vote. Messi finished fifth.
Prior to Modric’s honor on Monday, Brazil’s Kaka was the last one to have won the award in 2007 before Ronaldo and Messi’s supremacy loomed.
Modric spearheaded Croatia into the World Cup final for the first time in history in Russia, winning the tournament’s Golden Ball himself.
On club side, the playmaker won the third straight UEFA Champions League title with Real Madrid, their fourth in the past five years.
For Modric, the year of 2018 is “a really very special year”.
“Winning the Champions League for the third straight time. To play the World Cup final for Croatia as a captain. Some amazing individual awards, and to finish with this (the Ballon d’Or).
“It’s difficult to choose one. All these moments are really important. I don’t want to choose tonight. I just want to enjoy,” he added.
French teenage sensation Mbappe improved his ranking from seventh a year earlier to fourth for his role in France’s triumphant World Cup journey and glittering performance in Paris Saint-Germain. His club teammate Neymar, currently the world’s most expensive player, finished 12th.
Mbappe, who will turn 20 later this month, unsurprisingly bagged the newly-established Kopa Trophy representing the best U-21 player.
Women’s Ballon d’Or, also inaugurated this year, went to Norwegian Ada Hegerberg who is playing in the French club Olympique Lyonnais.
Founded in 1956 by France Football magazine, Ballon d’Or honors the player with the best performance over the year based on voting by football journalists. It was merged with FIFA World Player of the Year into FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2010, before the two awards were separated in 2016.