Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric was delighted to win the Ballon d'Or, although he admitted with humility that it doesn't mean he is now on the same level as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have won the prestigious award five times each in the last decade.
In an interview with the French magazine France Football, who give the Ballon d'Or, the Croatian international explained that "history will show that a Croatian player, a representative of a small country, won the Ballon d'Or after Cristiano and Messi, who are players at another level. No one has the right to compare themselves with them. They're the best in the history of the sport. To come after them is incredible, but I don't think for a second that this is over for them."
Analysing his favourite position on the pitch, Modric again showed his respect for Messi and Ronaldo: "I love to organise and generate the connection between the defence and the attack, to be the leader of [creating] play (...) that said, I like my current position at Madrid, towards the right, because there's lot of interchanging. In football today, looking forward all the time is not possible. Unless you're Messi or Cristiano, everyone else has to defend."
The Madrid midfielder was also proud to be compared with Johan Cruyff: "That they compare me with him is an immense honour, he was an incredible player and an immense coach. I wore No.14 at Tottenham and with the national team in homage to him, because the No.10 wasn't available."
Modric also revealed that in his day Arsene Wenger ruled out signing him for Arsenal. "I took Wenger's rejection as a new hurdle to overcome. That was his opinion on me at that moment," he commented.
Finally, Modric explained that ex-Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane saw him winning the Ballon d'Or: "There's one thing I will never forget. When Zidane became Madrid boss in 2016, he called me into his office after a training session. He explained how he saw me as a player and what he expected from me. He told me I was a really important player for him. And, above all, that he saw me as a player who, tomorrow, could win the Ballon d'Or.
"When someone like Zidane, with his personality and history, says that you, it lifts your morale. I admired and respected him enormously as a player. I saw him as someone like me, relaxed and a little shy. He wanted me to express myself more on the pitch, to open up. He needed me to be a key part of the team in an era in which we've played really good football. Those words from Zidane helped beyond just my play. However, despite those words, I didn't believe [I would win Ballon d'Or]."