Luka Modric saw off competition from France’s World Cup stars as the Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder won the Ballon d’Or on Monday to end a 10-year stranglehold on the award by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Modric was announced as the winner of the prestigious prize in Paris ahead of Ronaldo and French World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann.
Paris Saint-Germain’s teenage forward Kylian Mbappe came fourth, leaving Messi to settle for fifth position. Another Frenchman, Modric’s Madrid teammate Raphael Varane, was seventh, just behind Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah.
“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 honour and a privilege to hold this trophy.”
Mbappe, who does not turn 20 until later this month, picked up the consolation prize of the Kopa Trophy for the best young player.
Modric, the oldest winner since Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro, also 33, in 2006, was crowned after an outstanding year in which he starred in the Real side that retained the Champions League before heroically helping drag his country to the final of the World Cup for the first time in their history.
The prize comes after Modric claimed the Golden Ball for the best player at the World Cup before picking up UEFA’s prize for player of the season and FIFA’s best player award in September.
Ronaldo and Messi were among 30 nominees for the Ballon d’Or, organised by France Football magazine and which takes votes from 180 journalists from around the world.
The Portuguese star played with Modric in the Madrid side that won the Champions League before moving to Juventus in a typically prolific year, while Messi has again been outstanding with Barcelona.
The pair had won the prize five times each in the last decade but both are now in their 30s and neither stamped their authority on the World Cup.
Messi finishes outside the top three in the voting for the first time since 2006.
The World Cup was always likely to play a key role, and France had hoped to see one of their stars take the award on home soil.