2018 has been a year to remember in the world of soccer, as there was an unforgettable World Cup hosted in Russia, a Champions League final full of highlights, and some of the biggest transfers we’ve ever seen. At the club and international level, the biggest names in soccer continued to dominate and hold their reputation, all in hopes to have their name go down in history winning a Ballon d’Or.
Winner: Luka Modric – Real Madrid – Croatia
2018 has been the year of Luka Modric. The star Croatian midfielder at Real Madrid performed at his best, winning a Champions League and leading Croatia to the World Cup final against France. Modric won many honors this year, including the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, the Best FIFA Men’s Player, and now a Ballon d’Or. Modric is the first player other than Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to win a Ballon d’Or since 2007.
Runner-Up: Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus – Portugal
Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo followed up his former Real Madrid teammate in second place for the award this year. After winning a third consecutive Champions League with Real Madrid, the global superstar took his talents to the best club in Italy, Juventus. Following a World Cup where Portugal was knocked out in the Round of 16 by Uruguay, where Ronaldo netted four goals and an assist in four games, the Portuguese forward has been lighting up Serie A. Ronaldo scored 17 goals and added six assists to his name in 27 appearances at Juventus. Had Ronaldo won his third consecutive Ballon d’Or, he would have passed Messi for the most Ballon d’Or awards of any player.
3. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid and France)
4. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain and France)
5. Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona and Argentina)
6. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)
7. Raphael Varane (Real Madrid and France)
8. Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Belgium)
9. Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium)
10. Harry Kane (Tottenham and England)
The biggest surprise of the 2018 Ballon d’Or is not the winner, as Modric has had an incredible season at both club and country, but rather who missed out. For the first time since 2006, Argentinian star Lionel Messi did not place into the top three for the Ballon d’Or. In 50 total appearances this year, Messi has scored 45 goals—two penalties—and assisted 23, compared to Ronaldo who in 47 appearances scored 45 goals—seven penalties—and assisted 12. Outrage on social media broke out when it was announced that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner had not even made the top three, and was placed at fifth.
The Premier League showed off its quality at the ceremony, with four of the top 10 coming from the English league, and four coming from the La Liga. Salah finished as the highest ranking Premier League player, with Chelsea’s Hazard, Manchester City’s De Bruyne, and Tottenham’s Kane rounding out the top 10. Other names listed in the top 30 were N’golo Kante in 11th, Paul Pogba in 15th, Sergio Aguero in 16th, Roberto Firminio in 19th, Sadio Mane in 22nd, Alisson in 25th, and Hugo Lloris in 29th. The only top six club without a player named in the top 30 was Arsenal.
The ceremony also awarded 23-year-old Lyon and Norway forward Ada Hegerberg the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or, while 19-year-old PSG and French World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe the inaugural Kopa Trophy that was given to the best under-21 player selected by former Ballon d’Or winners.
The biggest question following the 2018 Ballon d’Or ceremony is this the end of the Messi and Ronaldo era of dominance? From 2008 to 2017 the pair went back and forth winning the award, with Andres Iniesta being the only player other than Ronaldo or Messi to finish in the top two for the award in 2010. Modric dedicated the awards to those who never won it who may have deserved it, and his winning may have marked the end of an era in world soccer.