Luka Modric beat competition from nearest rivals Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann to win the 2018 Ballon d'Or on Monday, capping a year in which he won a fourth Champions League title and the Golden Ball as the World Cup's best player.
It's the first time in a decade that a player other than Lionel Messi or Ronaldo claimed the individual honor. Kaka won that award in 2007 as the standout player in AC Milan's Champions League-winning campaign.
Modric earned universal praise and a fair share of Man of the Match awards for his efforts in midfield last season. His passes fed Madrid's insatiable front line, and his driving runs fueled Croatia's remarkable journey in Russia. Known as a silky playmaker, the 32-year-old added some graft to his game, harrying opponents in relentless pursuit of the ball while covering tens of thousands of kilometers.
"As a kid, we all have dreams. My dream was to play for a big club, to win important trophies, and I did it. The Ballon d'Or was more than a childhood dream for me. It's a real honor and privilege," he said. "It's an unbelievable feeling. Not only because of Cristiano and Lionel, but because of all other big talents like Mbappe, Griezmann, Neymar, and all others, to win it means I did something special this year. That's why 2018 is a dream year for me."
He generated incredible numbers in the Champions League final against Liverpool - 100 percent tackle success, 94 percent passing accuracy, and zero fouls committed - and put in career-defining performances at the World Cup. No one logged more minutes than Modric during the quadrennial tournament.
A combination of circumstances helped Modric's case, as Messi and Ronaldo each faltered at earlier stages of the World Cup. Messi's Argentina fell to France in the round of 16, while Ronaldo's Portugal lost to Uruguay.
Ronaldo finished second to Modric in Ballon d'Or votes, Griezmann came third, Kylian Mbappe fourth, and Messi fifth. The votes were determined by France Football's editorial staff and reputable journalists from around the world.
Modric, however, outshone them all to become the first Croatian to win the award. He was also previously named UEFA's Player of the Year and The Best FIFA Men's Player.