Luka Modric ended Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s decade-long domination of football’s individual awards by being crowned FIFA’s best player of the year on Monday.
The Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder starred for both club and country as Madrid won a third straight Champions League, and he inspired Croatia to reach the World Cup final for the first time.
“The emotion is huge because it is thanks to the work of everyone. So many people have come together and so many have supported me,” said Modric.
Modric beat out Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah and Ronaldo, who along with Messi did not attend the glitzy awards ceremony in London.
Both are in action for Juventus and Barcelona on Wednesday, but their no-show attracted criticism after so many years on top.
“Everyone has their own reasons,” said Modric. “Obviously I would have liked them to be here but they aren’t.”
Modric’s success means Ronaldo remains tied with Messi having won FIFA’s award in different guises five times each.
At 33, Croatia’s run to the final was the culmination of a brilliant career for Modric that had often been overshadowed by Ronaldo’s goalscoring in their time together in the Spanish capital, before the Portuguese left for Juventus in July.
Modric scored twice and also netted in penalty shootout wins over Denmark and Russia, but it was his playmaking ability that caught the eye in winning the Golden Ball for the best player at the World Cup.
“It was an unbelievable season, the best season in my life,” said Modric.
“I’m still not realising how good a year I had collectively, individually, and I’m very proud for everything I achieved this year and it will be remembered forever.”
For a sixth straight season, Ronaldo was the Champions League’s top scorer with 15 goals and also scored four times at the World Cup, including a hat-trick against Spain in a thrilling 3-3 draw to open Portugal’s campaign.
However, Portugal’s last 16 exit to Uruguay in Russia and Ronaldo’s failure to score in the semi-finals or final of the Champions League opened the door for Modric