Sixty-two years after Stanley Matthews won the first Ballon d'Or the women's game has received its inaugural winner: not Australia's Sam Kerr but trailblazing Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg.
The three-time Women's Champions League winner with French side Lyon was named the world's best female player of 2018 at a gala in Paris on Monday.
Rare miss: Matildas star Sam Kerr finished fifth in voting for the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or.Credit:AAP
Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, meanwhile, whose heroics inspired Croatia's run to the World Cup final, was named men's player of the year, breaking a decade of dominance by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
A jury of 45 journalists picked the 23-year-old Hegerberg from among 15 nominees, including Matildas star striker Kerr who was fifth in the voting.
"For the first time a woman will win football's highest honour. So even if I don't win, we will," Kerr posted on Instagram before the awards ceremony on Monday.
Kerr had another outstanding 2018 winning the NWSL golden boot, the PFA Women's Footballer of the Year and ESPY Award for Best International Women's Soccer Player.
One to remember: Luka Modric starred for both World Cup finalists Croatia and European champions Real Madrid.Credit:AP
Modric, 33, helped Real Madrid 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.
The award, voted for by journalists and organised by French magazine France Football, has been dominated by Messi and Ronaldo since 2008.
The last player to lift the award apart from the Argentine and Portuguese, who have won it a joint-record five times each, was Kaka in 2007 when the Brazilian played for AC Milan.
"It's a unique feeling. I'm happy, proud and honoured, I have a lot of emotions right now, it's hard to describe in words," Modric said after collecting the award from presenter and former France forward David Ginola after a glamorous ceremony at the Grand Palais.
Ronaldo was second with France star Antoine Griezmann third and his national teammate Kylian Mpbappe fourth, with Messi rounding out the top five.
Modric had already dislodged Ronaldo as the FIFA world player of the year in September.
He is the first Croatian to win the Ballon d'Or since it was initiated as a European award in 1956.
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