It's all hard work, says modest Modric

Luka Modric delivering his speech after winning Fifa's Best Men's Player award. The 33-year-old playmaker led Real Madrid to their third straight Champions League title last season.
Luka Modric delivering his speech after winning Fifa's Best Men's Player award. The 33-year-old playmaker led Real Madrid to their third straight Champions League title last season.PHOTO: REUTERS

Croatian playmaker named Fifa's best player for the first time, ends award duopoly of Messi and Ron

LONDON • With hard work, dreams can come true.

That was the message from Luka Modric after he was crowned Fifa's best men's player on Monday, ending Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's decade-long domination of football's individual awards.

The Real Madrid and Croatia playmaker beat Liverpool's Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah and former Real teammate Ronaldo to the prize after starring for both club and country over the past year.

The 33-year-old inspired Real to a third straight Champions League title and Croatia to a first World Cup final in Russia, where they lost 4-2 to France.

Voting for the player and coach categories was conducted by national team coaches and captains, selected journalists and, for the first time, an online poll of fans.

"This award shows that we all can become the best with hard work, dedication and belief. All dreams can come true," said Modric.

  • Reactions to his win

  • Congratulations to Luka and Marta on winning the #TheBest awards tonight. It's been a privilege to see you both play this season.

    PELE, Brazilian legend


    Congratulations my friend! An unbelievable player and an unbelievable season @lukamodric10

    GARETH BALE, Real Madrid teammate


    @lukamodric10, congratulations for #TheBEST award - you earned it with your skill, effort and achievements this year. Proud of you!

    MARIO MANDZUKIC, former Croatia teammate


    Just #thebest! Nobody deserves this more than you! Our #captain

    MATEO KOVACIC, Croatia midfielder


    I really believe he was the best player at the World Cup, so I would say this award is fully deserved.

    HARISS HARUN, Lions captain who was one of Singapore's three voting representatives.


    There are many players like Modric, but not many like Mbappe. I picked Mbappe because he's a young and exciting player who I believe brings another dimension to the game. With his speed and explosiveness, he can run past anybody over half the length of the pitch.

    FANDI AHMAD, Singapore coach

"It was an unbelievable season, the best season in my life.

"I'm still not realising how good a year I had collectively, individually, and I'm very proud for everything I achieved this year and it will be remembered forever."

The Croat's success means Ronaldo remains tied with Barcelona forward Lionel Messi having won the best player award in different guises five times each.

It is the first time since Brazilian Kaka's triumph in 2007 that the prize was not won by either Ronaldo or Messi - neither of whom attended the ceremony at London's Royal Festival Hall.

Both their teams - Juventus and Barcelona - are scheduled to play today, but they made the Best XI.

"Everyone has his own reasons," said Modric. "Obviously I would have liked them to be here, but they aren't."

With his craft and poise on the ball, Modric is a deserving winner of the award.

The midfielder's journey to the top has been remarkable. A shepherd's son who grew up amid the Balkan Wars in which his grandfather was murdered, Modric was sent on loan to the Bosnian league as a teenager to hone his talent.

Back at Dinamo Zagreb, he continued to impress, earning a move to Tottenham in 2008 and another to Real four years later.

Modric will never be as prolific as Ronaldo, Messi, or Salah, but what he brings to both club and country is no less vital.

Real stalwart Sergio Ramos personifies the Spanish club's heart and soul, but Modric is the brain that makes all other parts function.

In a less star-studded Croatia side, he is the Rolls-Royce in a showroom full of used cars.

Not that Modric is someone who craves the attention of being the main man. His acceptance speech, delivered in three different languages, was heartfelt.

"I am happy because other players are recognised, the ones before deserved to win but couldn't do it," he said.

"Players like Cristiano and Messi are apart from this world. They are the two best players of the world.

"But other players have to be recognised when they have a good year. I am happy it happened this way and I hope it happens in the future with other midfielders or defenders."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


THE BEST FIFA'S FOOTBALL AWARDS 2018 WINNERS

MEN'S PLAYER Luka Modric (Croatia)

WOMEN'S PLAYER Marta (Brazil)

GOALKEEPER Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)

MEN'S COACH Didier Deschamps (France)

WOMEN'S COACH Reynald Pedros (Lyon)

PUSKAS AWARD (BEST GOAL) Mohamed Salah (Liverpool v Everton, Dec 2017)

FAN AWARD Peru (World Cup 2018)

FAIR PLAY AWARD Lennart Thy: The German forward missed a Dutch Eredivisie game for VVV-Venlo in order to donate stem cells to a leukaemia patient.

FIFA MEN'S WORLD 11 FOR 2018

GK David de Gea

RB Dani Alves

CB Raphael Varane

CB Sergio Ramos

LB Marcelo

CM N'Golo Kante

CM Luka Modric

AM Eden Hazard

RW Lionel Messi

CF Cristiano Ronaldo

LW Kylian Mbappe

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2018, with the headline 'It's all hard work, says modest Modric '. Print Edition | Subscribe