Modric beat Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann of Atletico Madrid to the award after a season in which he won a third straight UEFA Champions League with Real and guided Croatia to second place at the FIFA World Cup.
The 33-year-old was voted FIFA’s Best Men’s Player earlier this year and was seen as the favourite for the Ballon d’Or as well.
His excellent form in the World Cup likely proved the difference. Second-placed Ronaldo also played a key role in Madrid’s Champions League run, but he couldn’t carry Portugal to World Cup glory as the European champions lost to Uruguay in the round of 16.
Griezmann won the World Cup with France and the UEFA Europa League with Atletico, but his form has tailed off since the summer, scoring just three La Liga goals in 14 starts this season.
Modric’s win marked the first time in a decade Ronaldo or Barcelona’s Lionel Messi didn’t hoist the trophy:
Messi finished well short of where he usually does, coming in at No. 5 despite enjoying a solid season at club level: