Small in stature, big on performance, Luka Modric is a giant amongst men
Luka Modric proves size and age are no barriers in being recognised as the world’s best player17 December 2018 | Charlie Laurendi
At an age when most professional footballers are beginning to think about winding down in their careers, perhaps considering offers from the Chinese Super League, J-League, MLS or even the A-League, Croatia’s Luka Modric at 33 could be about to leave current European Champions Real Madrid in the next transfer window and join his Croatian teammates Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic at Inter Milan on a four year deal.
There seems to be no slowing down for the diminutive creative midfielder having achieved the best year of his professional career to date, breaking the ten year dominance of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to win the prestigious Ballon d'Or, the award given by French Magazine France Footballsince 1956.
Modric is the first Croatian and the seventh player from Real Madrid (Alfredo Di Stefano, Raymond Kopa, Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Fabio Cannavaro and Cristiano Ronaldo) to win the Ballon d'Or.
The Ballon d'Or rounded out an almost perfect campaign for Modric in where he helped Real Madrid win a third successive Champions League title, led Croatia to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final and won the FIFA Golden Ball as the best player at the World Cup, winning man of the match honours on three separate occasions.
As a child, Modric had to overcome many obstacles; he was just six years old when his family became refugees. Living in a world most of us couldn’t possibly imagine, Modric honed his footballing skills in a backdrop of war where he developed a mental toughness and exterior to become the player he is today.
His talent with ball at his feet was soon recognised by Dinamo Zagreb, his formative years were with the youth team before spending five seasons with the senior team, having been loaned out in his first two professional seasons. In the summer of 2008 Modric was sold to Tottenham Hotspur for a then equalling transfer record of £16.5m for the London giants.
After four years and several eye catching displays Modric would join a gluttony of stars at Real Madrid for £33m in 2012. Such was Modric’s desire to play for Los Blancos, Modric turned down the chance to join cross town rivals Chelsea for £40m a year earlier. Though Spurs doubled their money on the sale of Modric, Chairman Daniel Levy was reluctant to sell the emerging superstar.
Having played under some of the world’s best tacticians in Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid, it was the arrival of French maestro and former Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane who brought the best of the midfielder. Zidane saw a lot of himself in Modric and gave him the freedom to express his talents on a weekly basis.
Three consecutive Champions League victories, the FIFA Golden Ball and now the Ballon d’Or are testimony to that.
With nothing left to achieve at Real Madrid, Modric is keen to join Inter Milan and has been offered a four year contract, but having lost five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo to Juventus, Real Madrid President Florentino Perez does not want to sell or lose any more crowd favourites.
In a sporting profession where players traditionally hit their peak in their late twenties, players are now producing their best football well into their thirties.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Andrea Pirlo and Zlatan Ibrahimović are testimony to that and were given new leases on life in the supposed twilight of their careers after changing clubs. Modric could do to Inter Milan what Pirlo achieved at Juventus after a glorious career at AC Milan. To put this into perspective, in the early 1980s, Michel Platini won the Ballon d’Or in three consecutive years, at the end of the 1986-1987 season Platini retired at the age of 32. Modric has the opportunity to continue to play at the highest level for at least another four seasons after this current campaign has ended.
From a child who survived the horrors of war, to captain his national team, to stand side by side amongst some of the toughest and hardest players in world football like teammates Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic, Mateo Kovacic and Domagoj Vida, at 33 years of age and 172cm tall, Modric proves good things do come in small packages.
luka modrić, croatia, ballon d'or, real madrid, inter milan