Luka Modric: the new winner of Ballon d'Or

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Croatian football player of Real Madrid Luka Modric attends the 63rd Golden Ball ceremony at the Grand Palais in Paris, France on Dec. 3, 2018. (Xinhua/Jack Chan)

PARIS, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Croatian star Luka Modric won his first Ballon d'Or here on Monday, putting an end to the decade-long dominance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

It was truly a fruitful year for the 33-year-old Modric. The midfielder led Real Madrid to an unprecedented third consecutive Champions League title and captained Croatia to the World Cup final for the first time in the country's history. Although they lost 4-2 to France, he received the Golden Ball award for Best Player of the Tournament.

"It feels amazing. I'm proud to win this beautiful award. It's difficult to express my emotions by words. It's something unique for me," Modric said.

"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."

He was also named the UEFA Men's Player of the Year and the Best FIFA Men's Player in 2018.

Modric started his career at Dinamo Zagreb at age 16, then he joined the Premier League's Tottenham Hotspur in 2008 and transferred to Real Madrid in 2012. He has won the Champions League four times with Madrid. Modric helped Real Madrid win the Champions League and La Liga title in the 2016-2017 season, and he was voted the best midfielder of the season by UEFA.

Modric was fifth in the Ballon d'Or polling last year, and this year, he beat Cristiano Ronaldo, World Cup winners Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe in the vote to win the trophy. Messi, who has won Ballon d'Or five times, finished fifth.

Founded in 1956 by France Football magazine, the Ballon d'Or honors the player with the best performance over the previous season based on voting by football journalists. It merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year to become the FIFA Ballon d'Or in 2010, before the two awards were separated again in 2016.

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