The Real Madrid and Croatia star is among the frontrunners for world football’s biggest individual honour

Luka Modric feels 2018 has been the best year of his career even if he does not win the Ballon d’Or.

Croatia international Modric is considered among the leading contenders for the award, which has been dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the past decade.

Ronaldo and Messi have each won the Ballon d’Or five times, with Kaka in 2007 the last player other than the duo to triumph.

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Modric’s fine performances at the World Cup earned him the Golden Ball, while he won a third consecutive Champions League crown with Real Madrid earlier in the year.

Fellow Ballon d’Or nominee Eden Hazard has backed Modric to take the France Football prize, but the 33-year-old says winning would not change his assessment of 2018.

“Let’s see what happens,” Modric said after Croatia’s spectacular 3-2 Nations League defeat of Spain. 

“I’m very proud to fight for it. If I win perfect, otherwise it will not change anything.

“With or without the Ballon d’Or, it’s the best year of my career.”

Life since his World Cup exploits has not been easy for Modric as Madrid struggled under the guidance of Julen Lopetegui.

The former Spain boss was sacked after 14 games in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Santiago Solari confirmed as his permanent replacement after winning four games out of four while in temporary charge.

“Since Solari came, we started well,” Modric added. “You can see in these four games, he arrival has been very good and hopefully we will continue like this.

“I feel better day by day, I came back very soon after the World Cup and without pre-season it was normal for me to come back, I feel physically better in the last few matches.”

Modric was also crowned as the top player in the 2018 edition of Goal 50 – a list of the best-performing players in the 2017/18 campaign.