Luka Modric was named Best Fifa Footballer of the Year in a London ceremony noted as much for the players in absentia as the awards.
The Croatian beat Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo to become the first player other than Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to win since Kaka in 2007.
Though Modric was keen to avoid any debate over former teammate Ronaldo, he did say both his and Messi’s absence from the ceremony was noted. “I don’t want to enter into the debate of whether it is deserved or not, I just want to thank all the people that voted for me for their support.
“Everyone has their own reasons. Obviously I would have liked them to be here but they aren’t.”
Real Madrid teammate Sergio Ramos also made mention of the two superstars skipping the event. “He (Modric) is a good player, colleague and friend, but it would have been good for Cris and Leo to be here,” he said.
“I am as happy as if I had won it. (Modric) deserves it, he is an excellent player and has marked an important era in the history of Real Madrid.”
The award was decided by national team coaches and captains, select members of the media and online voting. Modric acknowledged both his club and national team achievements, which included winning the Golden Ball at the World Cup, as the deciding factors in claiming the award.
“It is for the season we had with Real Madrid, winning the Champions League again, and then getting to the final with Croatia, it all counts,” he said. “The emotion is huge because it is the work of everyone. So many people have come together and so many have supported me.”
Messi’s omission from the top three garnered particular attention ahead of this, the third edition of The Best awards, which were created after Fifa’s six-year partnership with the Ballon d’Or ended in 2015.
Barcelona’s talisman was, however, included in Fifa’s team of the year, the Fifpro World XI, as were David de Gea, Dani Alves, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Modric, N’Golo Kante, Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe, and Ronaldo.
Meanwhile, Salah was handed a consolation prize for his record-breaking season with Liverpool, taking home the Fifa Puskas award for his goal in the Merseyside derby.
Brazil and Orlando Pride player Marta was named Best Women’s Player for a record-breaking sixth time.
Other winners included Thibaut Courtois for Best Goalkeeper and France national team coach Didier Deschamps and Lyon manager Reynald Pedros for Best Men’s and Women’s Coach respectively.