Luka Modric admitted it was special to have been awarded the 2018 Ballon d'Or after impressing for Real Madrid and Croatia throughout the year.
The 33-year-old was part of the Real Madrid side that won the Champions League for the third season in a row in May before helping his country battle their way to a surprising World Cup 2018 final appearance.
Modric's achievement means he is the first player other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to claim the award in more than a decade.
Portugal international Ronaldo, who left Real Madrid and joined Juventus in the summer, came second while Barcelona's Messi was fifth, behind French duo Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.
Modric has enjoyed an outstanding year as he was also named the world's top male player at the Best FIFA Football Awards and received the Golden Ball award for the best player at World Cup 2018.
He said: "Maybe in the past there are some players who could have won the Ballon d'Or like Xavi, Andres Iniesta or [Wesley] Sneijder but people finally now are looking at someone else [other than Messi and Ronaldo].
"This award is for all the players who probably deserved to win it and didn't. It was a really special year for me.
"It is difficult to express my emotion and how I feel in words. It is something unique for me. It was very special."
Croatia are 25/1 to win Euro 2020 while Real Madrid are 10/1 to triumph in the 2018/19 Champions League.
Lyon and Norway striker Ada Hegerberg won the Womens's Ballon d'Or while Mbappe was handed the Kopa Trophy which is awarded to the best Under-21 player and is selected by former Ballon d'Or winners.