Luka Modric has revealed that former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane privately backed him to win the Ballon d'Or nearly three years ago.
The Croatia international became the first player to break the Messi/Ronaldo duopoly of the award in a decade when he was named as the winner by France Football on Monday night – and told the magazine afterwards that Zidane had backed him for stardom when he was first installed as Real's manager.
Modric told France Football (via Marca): "When I recounted all of the individual trophies that I've won this year and when I saw that I was among the 30 finalists, I began to believe it, but there's one thing I'll never forget. When Zidane became Madrid coach in January 2016, he called me to his office one day after training and told me how he saw me as a player and what he expected of me.
"He told me that I was an important player for him and, above all, that he saw me as a player who could win the Ballon d'Or. When someone like Zidane, with all of his personality and history, tells you that, it boosts your confidence.
"I admired him and respected him enormously as a player, he saw me as someone like himself, quiet and a bit shy, he expected me to express myself more on the pitch, to open up.
"He needed me to be a key part of the team in an era when we were truly playing well. Those words from Zidane helped me to go further in my play. Even in spite of his words, I didn't begin to believe it."