Luka Modric winning The Best: What it means for the future of FIFA’s prestigious awards

The seemingly unimaginable unfolded in the world of football the other night. FIFA’s player of the year award was announced and for the first time in a decade, it wasn’t Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo who took it home. Instead, it was Luka Modric, not known principally for his prolific goalscoring unlike the dynamic duo, who stole the limelight. But what does Modric’s win mean for the future of the award? FOX Sports Asia explores.

At the Royal Festival Hall in London on Monday, Hollywood star Idris Elba and FIFA president Gianni Infantino took to the stage to present the most prestigious honour of the night — FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award. After opening the envelope, Infantino let the crowd suffer a moment of suspense. Mo Salah’s anxious face was shown. But when it was reported that Cristiano Ronaldo will skip the ceremony, there only ever was going to be one winner.

And indeed it was so. Luka Modric’s name rang around the arena as the world’s best. And thus ended a decade-long dominance of two often referred to as “out of this world’ — Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Everyone thought it’d be the likes Kylian Mbappe, Neymar Jr or Eden Hazard who would end the duo’s dominance. In short, one of the youngsters. However, it was one of the game’s veterans who wore the crown.

After the year Modric’s had, his claim to the throne cannot be doubted. From a third Champions League win with Real Madrid to taking Croatia to the World Cup final and winning the Golden Ball, it has been a near perfect year for Luka who makes his teammates tick.

Now, for the last decade or so, we were under the impression that goals won individual honours. To win the Ballon d’Or or its FIFA equivalent, we were made to believe one had to score a lot of goals. But Modric’s win has rewritten the rules — that it’s not always goals that decide individual honours.

Kaka was the last ‘human’ to win the Ballon d’Or, beating both Messi and Ronaldo. Modric did almost the same at The Bests this year. He fended off the likes of Salah, Ronaldo, Messi, Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann to win the biggest individual prize there is for a footballer.

The Brazilian star’s win back in 2007 showed that it is consistency and impact that defines a player’s importance. But from then on, the awards have been dominated by Messi and Ronaldo. Players who kept on beating themselves to score an unimaginable number of goals year in, year out. And it got to such an extent people started believed it is the one with the most goals who will end up with the shiny gong.

“It is great that Luka won. Now people will understand the truth of defining a player,” said a jubilant Pavel Nedved. The Czech midfield maestro is a Ballon d’Or winner fending off competition from goalscorers like Thierry Henry in 2003. So, it’s understandable why the Juventus legend has jumped onto praising Modric.

The entire world adores Modric. But, there was a question always ringing around. In an era of Messi and Ronaldo, does someone like Modric really deserve a chance? The final answer was there to be seen on Monday. Modric didn’t just have a chance, he won it.

Modric’s win last night is also great news for footballers who play brilliantly but lack the scoring touch. For example, someone like Eden Hazard. The 2018 award has underlined the importance of a consistent player who can help his team in crunch situations. It also will, most likely, end the established advantage of goalscorers.

The FIFA Ballon d’Ors won by Messi in 2010 and Ronaldo in 2013 was put into some serious doubts as many believed it should have been Wesley Sneijder’s and Frank Ribery’s instead. Modric’s win this year will most probably put a hold on any debate of goalscorers already having an advantage in the race for the award.

Football forever has favoured the scorers. After all, you win by scoring the most. Consistency is key, but goalscoring is more crucial. But for the last decade, we’ve been spoiled so much by Messi and Ronaldo’s ability in front of the goals that we’ve forgotten to show some love for football’s artists in the midfield or resolute defenders at the back.

But Modric’s win may signal the start of an era where players are judged by their overall performances and not just goals or assists.