Luka Modric won the Ballon d'Or, but was he the best player this year?
By Joe Harker
The Ballon d'Or is perhaps the most prestigious individual award in football. It's the personal accolade every top player wants to win and some even have clauses in their contracts for it. This year's winner is Luka Modric, the midfielder who reached the World Cup final with Croatia and won a third consecutive Champions League with his club Real Madrid. It's been a good year for the player and one that has seen him gain wider recognition for his talents.
Modric is the first player in a decade to win the award that isn't called Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. The last winner of the Ballon d'Or besides the world class pair was Kaka in 2007. Modric was widely tipped to win the accolade after winning the World Cup Golden Ball and being named the best male player at the Best Fifa Football Awards.
He dedicated his wins to all the players who have missed out on accolades in the decade of Messi and Ronaldo. He said: "Maybe in the past there are some players who could have won the Ballon d'Or like Xavi, Andres Iniesta or Sneijder but people finally now are looking at someone else.
"This award is for all the players who probably deserved to win it and didn't. It was a really special year for me. It is difficult to express my emotion and how I feel in words. It is something unique for me. It was very special."
Ronaldo came second in the standings, while Messi finished fifth. World Cup winners Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe were third and fourth respectively. There is always going to be debate over who is the best player of the year but Modric has picked up a number of individual accolades in 2018, making him the standout candidate for the Ballon d'Or.
Perhaps the era of Messi and Ronaldo's dominance is over. Both are getting older while new stars are making their mark in football. There will be a point where the new surpass the old, perhaps that time is coming? Modric may be the herald of that change but he is likely not going to be leading the wave of new players considering he is 33 himself.
There are always questions over who really deserved the award. Some believe Messi has consistently been the best player over the last decade but the award very often goes to a player that won the Champions League. Trophy wins are always going to influence the recipient, even if many argue that another player was the best performer.
There are also some who question whether Modric was really the best player this year, or whether the campaign to get him the award influenced people's perception of him. Since performances can be so subjective there are always going to be people asking whether he really was the best player in the world during 2018.