Luka Modric admitted he was living his dream after capping a remarkable year by lifting the 2018 Ballon d’Or.
The 33-year-old Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder broke the stranglehold placed on France Football’s prestigious award by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the last decade at a ceremony in Paris on Monday evening.
Former Real team-mate Ronaldo and Argentinian superstar Messi had each won the Ballon d’Or on five occasions since Brazilian Kaka did so in 2007.
In his acceptance speech broadcast by la chaine L’Equipe, Modric said: “It’s a unique feeling. I am happy, proud and honoured. I have sensational emotions at the moment that are really hard to describe in words.
“First of all, I would like to thank my team-mates and coaches at Real Madrid and all the people who work for Real Madrid, all my coaches at team-mates with the national team, all those who voted for me and of course, my family, my wife and kids.
“They are fulfilling me as a person and helping me in all aspects to be successful as a professional.
“As a kid, we all have dreams. My dream was to play for a big club, to win important trophies. I dreamed about it, but the Ballon d’Or was more than a childhood dream for me and it’s a real honour and a privilege to hold this trophy tonight.”
Modric’s recognition was reward for a fine 12 months during which he helped his club to lift the Champions League for the third successive season in May before playing a key role in Croatia’s surge to the World Cup final.
He won the Golden Ball for his contribution in Russia and was named the Best FIFA Footballer of the Year in September, and is the first Croatian to claim the Ballon d’Or.
Ronaldo, who left Real for Italian giants Juventus in a £99.2million switch in July, finished as runner-up ahead of France’s World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann.
Messi was relegated to the relative backwaters, by his standards, of fifth behind Griezmann’s international team-mate Kylian Mbappe, with Liverpool and Egypt striker Mohamed Salah the first Premier-League based player in the list.
England skipper Harry Kane, who won the Golden Boot in Russia, came 10th, with Wales’ talisman Gareth Bale finishing in 17th place.
The first women’s Ballon d’Or was awarded to Lyon’s Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg, who scored 53 goals for the club in 33 appearances last season and has 14 in as many games to date during the current campaign.
There was controversy when Hegerberg was asked by co-host Martin Solveig if she knew how to “twerk”, to which she replied ‘No’, and he later apologised for any offence caused.
He tweeted: “I explained to @AdaStolsmo the buzz and she told me she understood it was a joke. Nevertheless my apologies to anyone who may have been offended. Most importantly congratulations to Ada.”