Luka Modric said his Ballon d'Or win is for all the players who deserved the accolade but missed out because of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's dominance of the coveted award.
However, Modric ended their decade-long duopoly on the prize following Croatia's run to the World Cup final and Madrid's third successive Champions League crown.
Modric – who was also named FIFA's Best Men's Player this year – acknowledged Messi and Ronaldo's quality but added that his success is a "victory for football".
"These two [Ronaldo and Messi] were on some exceptional level for the last 10 years," Modric said.
"Maybe in the past there are some players that could win the Ballon d'Or, like Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta or [Wesley] Sneijder, but it didn't happen.
"People are finally, I don't know, they wanted something else. I think it's [a] victory for football tonight.
"I am happy that I am the winner but this award is for all these players that probably deserved to win but didn't."
Ronaldo finished second behind his former Real Madrid team-mate while Messi finished fifth overall.
Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe came third and fourth in the voting, respectively.