Football

An EPL reason behind Modric's victory

Croatian midfielder attributes winning Ballon d'Or to positional change first suggested by Redknapp at Spurs

Luka Modric, the newly minted Ballon d'Or winner, has attributed a change in position under Harry Redknapp at Tottenham Hotspur for putting him on the path to winning the coveted award.

The Croatian midfielder, who joined Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur in 2012 for 40 million euros (S$62.2m), was criticised in his debut season at the Bernabeu and named the worst signing of the year in a poll by Spanish newspaper Marca.

But the diminutive playmaker began to demonstrate the qualities he had shown at Spurs when Jose Mourinho deployed him in a deep-lying role in Real's midfield, rather than the attacking role he had been given at the start of that campaign.

Modric said the positional change, which was first suggested to him by Redknapp, transformed his form.

"The change of position helped me a lot in my career. I used to play more offensively. When I dropped back, I was able to read the game better and show my creativity. Harry Redknapp made that change," he said.

The 33-year-old, who also picked up Fifa's The Best award in October, is the first Croat to win the Ballon d'Or, which is voted for by journalists and organised by French magazine France Football.

In the process, he ended a decade-long dominance on the coveted award by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo, who won the award last year, came in second this time around, while Atletico Madrid's France striker Antoine Griezmann was third.

Paris St Germain's France forward Kylian Mbappe, who also collected the Kopa award for the Best Young Player, was fourth, with Messi fifth.

Olympique Lyon's Norway striker Ada Hegerberg won the inaugural Ballon d'Or for women's football, having led her side to the women's Champions League title, scoring in extra-time in the 4-1 win over Vfl Wolfsburg in the final.

Modric helped Real win a third successive Champions League title in May and also captained Croatia to their first World Cup final, being named Player of the Tournament despite his side losing 4-2 to France.

"It's a big pleasure to be here... I'm still trying to realise that I have become part of a group of exceptional players to win the Ballon d'Or throughout history," he said, after collecting the award from former France forward David Ginola after a glamorous ceremony at the Grand Palais in Paris. - REUTERS

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