SOFIA (Reuters) – Croatia captain Luka Modric was named Balkan Athlete of the Year on Thursday, becoming only the second soccer player to scoop the prize after Bulgaria’s former European Footballer of the Year Hristo Stoichkov in 1994.
Ballon d’Or winner Modric won the Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup with his Spanish club Real Madrid as well as being instrumental in helping Croatia reach the World Cup final in Russia. He was awarded the tournament’s Golden Ball Award.
The 33-year-old, who received 75 points in the 46th poll, organised by Bulgarian News Agency (BTA), beat Serbia’s world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic, who topped the annual poll five times in a row between 2011 and 2015.
Another tennis player, Romania’s Simona Halep, who finished the year as women’s world number one for the second consecutive season, came third in the poll, which is conducted by the state-run news agencies in nine Balkan countries.
(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Gareth Jones)