Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric won Ballon d’Or 2018 in Paris on Monday. In the process, he broke the decade-long duopoly over the award held by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The last player to win the award outside of Ronaldo and Messi was Brazilian great Kaka in 2007.
With Barcelona forward and five-time champion Messi not even in the top three, the Real Madrid midfielder Modric overtook former teammate Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann to win the award for the first time. Messi netted 49 goals for club and country, leading his side to win the La Liga title but a poor World Cup show with Argentina deprived him of the prestigious award this year.
“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. 2018 is a dream year for me. Throughout my career I realized hard work, persistence and belief in yourself in difficult moments are the foundations of success.”
Modric won the Champions League with Real Madrid for the third successive year and was a mainstay in midfield for the Croatian team that reached the final of the World Cup this year in Russia. The 33-year old Croatian was awarded the FIFA’s World Cup 2018 MVP, UEFA’s Player of the Year 2018, Best FIFA Footballer of the Year and the number one player by International Federation of Football History and Statistics.
Runner-up Ronaldo, who is now at Juventus, was key to Real Madrid when they retained the Champions League title for the third year in a row. Griezmann, on the other hand, helped his country France to win the World Cup during the summer after claiming the Europa League and the Uefa Super Cup titles with Atletico Madrid.
Meanwhile, Kylian Mbappe, who helped France in winning the World Cup, was awarded the Kopa award for the best young player, overtaking national teammates Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann.
Modric was joined in Paris by his team delegation, led by Florentino Perez and his team captain Sergio Ramos. Juventus striker Cristiano Ronaldo, however, gave the ceremony a miss.
This year marked the first time that France Football reserved a Ballon d’Or for women’s players. Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg won the award. She has won the Champions League three times with Lyon and scored a tournament-record 15 goals last season.
“I want to say thanks to France Football. It’s a huge step for women’s football,” Hegerberg said. “I want to end this speech with a message to all young girls in the world. Believe in yourselves.” The 23-year-old went on to say that she won’t be playing for the Norwegian national team next year in the Women’s World Cup.
Taking a stand against what she describes as a lack of respect for female players in Norway, she hasn’t played for the national team since 2017 when it crashed out of the group stage of the Women’s European Championship without scoring a goal. AP quotes her as saying that she will continue the exile so as to preserve her “authenticity and my values, as a person, as a footballer.”
“A lot of things need to be done to make the conditions better for women who play football,” she said. “It’s all about how we respect women’s football. I don’t think the respect has been there. Sometimes you have to take tough decisions to stay true to yourself. I let them know, quite clearly, what I found wasn’t working.”