Croatian and Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric on Monday night pipped Juventus’s talisman Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona Lionel Messi to win the 2018 Ballon d’Or.
The 33-year-old became the first Croatian to claim the award.
Modric, who was closely followed by Ronaldo and Antonio Griezmann as second and third respectively, won the Ballon d’Or after he played an integral role in Real Madrid winning a fourth Champions League title in five years and then skippered Croatia to their first World Cup final in Russia.
He finally put an end to the 10-year duopoly of Ronaldo and Messi, who have won the trophy five times each.
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.
“It’s a unique feeling, I’m happy, proud and it’s an honour,” he said as he accepted the award. “[There are] extraordinary emotions at the moment.
“I just want to thank all those who helped me to be here tonight, I thank my team-mates, my coaches, the staff and Real Madrid, all those who work there, the coaches and team-mates in the national team, the ones who voted for me and my family, which allows 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 [about] as a child, it’s an honour to win it tonight.
“It’s a great pleasure to be here around these 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 in history. It’s a great pleasure to be part of this group.
“Throughout my career I understood that work, persistence, believing in yourself, is the basis for expressing your talent. I like a saying – the best is never easy. For me, it was not easy. It was necessary to seize the opportunities.”
Modric, who also won FIFA’s Best Men’s Player award this year, 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.