Ronaldo had won the award for the last two years, but Modric’s exceptional 2017/18 season was deemed to have surpassed the Portuguese’s dominance.
The 33-year-old Croatian won his third Champions League trophy with Real Madrid in May and led his national side to their first World Cup final in Russia, where he was awarded the Golden Ball for his outstanding individual performance.
Afterwards Modric dedicated the award to his Croatian and Madrid teammates.
“It’s a great honour and beautiful feeling to stand here with this trophy,” he said.
“This trophy is not just mine. It is for my Real Madrid team-mates, the Croatia national team and all my coaches. This is also for my family, without who I would not be the player I am.”
Voted for by national team coaches and captains, select members of the media and an online vote, the win shows a shift from Lionel Messi and Ronaldo sharing the spoils for the past decade of Fifa individual awards.
Messi’s omission from the category altogether garnered particular attention ahead of this, the third edition of The Best awards, which were created after Fifa’s six-year partnership with the Ballon d’Or ended in 2015.
Barcelona’s talisman was however included in Fifa’s team of the year, the Fifpro World XI, as were David de Gea, Dani Alves, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Modric, N’Golo Kante, Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe, and Ronaldo.
Meanwhile, Salah was handed a consolation prize for his record-breaking season with Liverpool, taking home the Fifa Puskas award for his goal in the Merseyside derby.
Other winners included Thibaut Courtois for Best Goalkeeper, Brazilian and Orlando Pride player Marta was named Best Women’s Player.
Best Men’s Coach went to French national team coach Didier Deschamps, and Reynald Pedros won the Best Women’s Coach award for his work leading Lyon to their fifth Champions League title. The Fifa Fan Award went to Peru’s supporters after the country appeared at a World Cup for the first time in 36 years with Germany’s Lennart Thy winning the Fifa Fair Play Award.