By the end, Luka Modric could hardly walk. He had run and run and then run some more, as Croatia reached the final and then fell, respectably, to a France team bursting with talent.
Modric was a constant for Croatia. Even when his legs looked to be failing him, his passing remained as crisp and as accurate as ever. And his effort was recognised on Sunday. Modric was handed the Golden Ball, deemed the best player at this year's tournament in Russia.
Few could begrudge him the award. Some, though, believed others to be more deserving. Kylian Mbappe won the Young Player award, but many expected him to take the Golden Ball too. And there were others who went under the radar, overshadowed by the youthful flamboyance of Mbappe and the effortless guile of Modric.
In an attempt to recognise the World Cup's other top performers, here are five potential alternative Golden Ball winners.