​Luka Modric is number 50 in 90min's Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time series. 


'Why is Luka Modric one of the best footballers of all time?' 


It's a fairly simple question with a fairly simple answer. 


​Luka Modric is one of the best footballers of all time (50th best to be exact) because he was the only player other than Cristiano Ronaldo (the 15th best footballer of all time...more on that in a few weeks) and Lionel Messi (the third best footballer of all time...more on that in a few weeks too) to win the Ballon d'Or over past decade. 

Luka Modric

It's really that simple. 


When Modric lifted football's most coveted individual prize in 2018, he became one of the best of all time. 


Seriously, it's that simple. 


Honestly I could just end the article here...


'Oh noooo please don't! Please write more! We love you!'


...Ok, ok, ok, adoring audience that I've just invented in my head, I'll write more. How about I write about how and why Modric won that Ballon d'Or award? Sound good? 


'Yayyyyy!'


Cracking. 


Right, so how and why Modric won the Ballon d'Or is less simple. Because, unlike so many other winners of the France Football's ever-growing big gold ball, the Croatian midfielder didn't win the award by literally outscoring ever other human on planet earth. 

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH23-ARG-CRO

In fact, Modric is one of only two players to have won the award over the last 23 years to do so without scoring 10+ goals the year they won it. The other to do that was Fabio Cannavaro in 2006...yes, the centre back...a centre-back who scored just one fewer goal than wee Luka than during his Ballon d'Or winning year (he scored four in 2018 - Cannavaro scored three in 2006).


So he must've supplemented those lack of goals with a billion and a half assists - right? 


Well...no...


...Not really...


...Not at all actually.


The ​Real Madrid star did not win the Ballon d'Or because he assisted more goals than any other human on planet earth.


Granted, he did hit a career best number of seven for Real Madrid during the 2017/18 season, but career best or not, seven isn't exactly an 'bah gawd!' inducing number. If it was, then Mesut Ozil would've won the Ballon d'Or at least 3,000 times. AT LEAST. 


Modric's seeming inability to put ​numbers on the board throughout 2018 (and the rest of his career for that matter), means that the question I said I'd answer about 200 words ago still hasn't been answered. 

Luka Modric,Artem Dzyuba

If anything, the answer has been made less ascertainable (sorry about that). 

 

And it's seemingly unascertainable because, well, every metric that had been used throughout the decade to decide who the 'best player in the world' was? We didn't use it in 2018.


For the first time in a decade, something other than stats was used. 


For the first time in a decade, the voting conglomerate opted not to go on WhoScored and sort by 'most goals scored'.


For the first time in a decade, they decided to actually watch football. 


Yes, they actually watched a few games of football. 


Bit mad, I know.  


And due to the fact that they did the whole watching games of football thing in 2018 - games Luka Modric played at least - they noticed that, despite the lack of goals and assists, the wee Cruyff lookalike was the best player in the world. 

Luka Modric,David Alaba

As throughout 2018, particularly when it mattered in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA World Cup, Modric was the most dominant footballer in every game he played - all-but single handedly laying the foundations for Real Madrid's third consecutive European triumph and Croatia's astonishing run to the World Cup final. 


No, he didn't score goals at the same rate as the CR7s and Messis of this world, but yes, he really did literally everything else. Except play in goal. 


For while Ronaldo and Messi scored against other teams, Modric just beat them. 


He wore them down.


He sucked the life out of them. 

UEFA Champions League"Real Madrid v Liverpool FC"

He out-thought, out-fought, out-worked, out-manoeuvred, out-passed, out-played every single opponent he came up against - to the point that all that was then needed was a simple Ronaldo tap-in, or a Mario Mandzukic tap-in (or whoever, really) to win his side the game.


He did it in Kiev, in the Champions League final, where he wore out a frenetic and famously energetic Liverpool side before Gareth Bale scored the winning goals. 


And he did it in France, in the FIFA World Cup, where he asserted his dominance in basically every game he played, giving the likes of Mandzukic the opportunity to go and score the big, big goals (like the one against England lol).  


His teammates laid the final straws that broke down the opposition, but the key was the million other straws that Modric had laid underneath. The hundreds of tackles, passes, drops of the shoulder and headed clearances that sapped the life out of the opposition, and gave his team the opportunity to go on and win games. 


"Why did one straw break the camel's back?"

"Here's the secret: The million other straws underneath it." (Mos Def - Mathematics) 


That is why Luka Modric won the 2018 Ballon d'Or. 


That is why Luka Modric won the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball. 


That is why Luka Modric has won four UEFA Champions Leagues.


That is why Luka Modric is one of the greatest footballers of all time. 


90min's 'Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time' can be found here