Modric became the first player other than Ronaldo and Messi to lift FIFA's The Best award since Ricardo Kaka won it in 2007, ending the 10-year reign of the superstar duo.
The Croatia captain enjoyed a stunning World Cup in Russian Federation earlier this year and was awarded the accolade at a Gala event in London tonight.
Salah did not go away empty handed, however, as he picked up the Puskas award for best goal for his strike against Everton in the Merseyside derby last December.
Best Goalkeeper award: The best goalkeeper was by Belgian global and Chelsea goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois.
Messi and Ronaldo were not in attendance to be recognised as they opted to skip Monday's ceremony at London's Royal Festival Hall.
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United took the lead midway through the first half when Fred fired in his first goal for the club from outside the box. We have to win today because after that it will be hard to close the gap.
"Messi and Ronaldo are fantastic players, but this year is the year of Luka".
France's Didier Deschamps won the award for the best men's coach in 2018.
Deschamps said: "I want to thank the president of the French Federation who trusted me and helped me work serenely".
"We all know that being a coach, alone we can't do anything".
Former Chelsea man Thibaut Courtois was awarded the best goalkeeper award, after his Golden Glove-winning World Cup tournament with Belgium.
France and Lyon defender Wendy Renard is delighted that women now have an equivalent Ballon d'Or award. All the coaches I have played for, without them this would not be possible, thank you to them.
Real Madrid's Croatian midfielder Luka Modric looks on during the UEFA Champions League group G football match between Real Madrid CF and AS Roma at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on September 19, 2018.