Luka Modric ended the long reign of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo by winning the Ballon d’Or for the first time Monday.
Modric won the Champions League with Real Madrid and then guided Croatia to the World Cup final in July. The midfielder was voted player of the tournament.
Messi and Ronaldo had won every Ballon d’Or since 2008, and usually competed with only each other for the greatest recognition among soccer’s elite.
“As a kid, we all have dreams. My dream was to play for a big club and win important trophies,” Modric said. “The Ballon d’Or was more than just a dream for me, and it is really an honor and a privilege to hold this trophy.”
Ronaldo was second in the polling, followed by France forward Antoine Griezmann. France teenager Kylian Mbappe was fourth. Brazil’s Neymar was third last year but 12th this time. Messi was fifth in the voting, having been runner-up to Ronaldo the past two years and in the top three every year since 2007. Modric had not previously been in the top three.
“2018 is a dream year for me,” said Modric, 33. “Throughout my career, I realized hard work, persistence and belief in yourself in difficult moments are the foundations of success.”
Modric’s father was shown on the big screen wiping away tears during the ceremony at the imperious Grand Palais in Paris.
Ronaldo missed a record sixth award, which would have moved him one ahead of Messi. The previous player to win it before those two started dominating world soccer awards was Brazil midfielder Kaka with AC Milan in 2007.
Ronaldo also won the Champions League last season with Modric, before leaving to join Juventus. Ronaldo scored a hat trick against Spain at the World Cup, but he failed to make an impression when Portugal lost to Uruguay in the round of 16.
Mbappe and Griezmann scored in the 4-2 World Cup final win against Croatia. Mbappe earned a domestic treble with Paris Saint-Germain. Griezmann also scored twice for Atlético Madrid in the Europa League final win against Marseille.
France coach Didier Deschamps said a France player should have won the award.
“They deserve it because of what they did with the national team at the World Cup and also because of the trophies they won with their clubs,” Deschamps said.
Mbappe — at 19, the youngest player to score in a World Cup final — won the Raymond Kopa Trophy, which is awarded to the best young player.
Jerome Pugmire is an Associated Press writer.