We don’t want football without wonderful Luka Modric

Date published: Friday 15th April 2022 5:04 - John Nicholson

Luka Modric rouses Real Madrid fans

Luka Modric can do things that only Luka Modric can do. We should savour him while we still have him.


Who’s this then?
Luka Modrić is the 36-year-old 5’8″ Croatian midfielder who plays for Real Madrid whose beautiful outside-of-the-foot pass for Karim Benzema to score helped Madrid beat Chelsea this week.

He was born in September 1985 in Zadar, SR Croatia, then a republic within SFR Yugoslavia. A cousin of Mark Viduka, he had a tough childhood, growing up during the Croatian War of Independence. His grandfather, also called Luka, was executed by Serb rebels who were part of the police of SAO Krajina in December 1991 near his house in Modrići. After the family fled, the house was burned to the ground. Modrić became a refugee and lived with his family in the Hotel Kolovare for seven years; he later moved to the Hotel Iž, both in Zada. A reminder that another vicious, brutal war in Europe happened not so long ago.

Luka grew up playing football in the hotel car park with other kids and showed talent from an early age. When he was 16 in 2001, he went to play for Dinamo Zagreb’s youth side. In 2003 he was loaned to Zrinjski Mostar in the Bosnian Premier League and became the Bosnian Premier League Player of the Year. It was a legendarily tough, physical league to play in and prepared him for the professional game. When younger he was thought to be lightweight and too short to hold his own but he disproved this in the Bosnian Premier League.

From there he was loaned to Croatian side Inter Zaprešić for a season, helping them to second in the Croatian top flight and earning them a place in the preliminary round of the UEFA Cup. He also won the Croatian Football Hope of the Year award in 2004. Loan period over, he returned to play for Dinamo Zagreb in 2005 and signed a 10-year contract. 10! Him and Pards, eh.

With Zagreb he won three consecutive league titles, two league and cup doubles and a Croatian Super Cup. Playing alongside the likes of Eduardo and Mario Mandžukić, he was the star of the side and was hailed as such by their fans. In four years he notched 32 goals and 29 assists in 132 games.

One of the greatest young European footballers, somehow Daniel Levy convinced him to sign for Spurs on a six-year contract, threw £16.5 million pound coins at Zagreb, scooped Luka up and took him home in a rucksack. This equalled the highest fee Spurs had ever paid with the £16.5 million they’d paid for, yes, Darren Bent.

Their manager at the time was Juande Ramos, who was no good. Luka took time to adapt, suffered an injury and was generally thought to be a bit of a lightweight but he knew he wasn’t. He’d thrived in the Bosnian Premier League so he knew he was plenty tough enough.

Part of the problem was that he was shifted around a lot, sometimes playing as a 10, sometimes wide left. But Harry Redknapp was to come to the rescue, taking over from Magic Juande and in between the golf and the gee-gees, recognised that he had totally lucked out by having one of the best midfielders in the world at the club, so began to shape the team around him in a largely central role. He began to score and to make goals. Spurs got into the Champions League and made the quarter-finals and he was the club’s Player Of The Season in 2011.

In 2011/12, everyone loved Luka and Chelsea began sniffing around his parts like a dog in the park, first offering £22million for his services, then upping it to £27million. Levy was not interested and later turned down £40million. Luka was up for the move and claimed to have had a gentleman’s agreement with Levy that he could leave if a big club came in for him. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Levy, often vaunted for his business acumen, even though it is invisible to most of us, sold our man to Real Madrid for £30million, £10 million less than Chelsea had offered, even though Modric was under contract until 2016. Well done Danny. He’d played 157 games for Tottenham, scoring 17 times.

So off to Spain our boy went and, ten years later, he’s still there, still has the same haircut, doesn’t really look any older and is still weaving his magic as the game against Chelsea showed.

He’s been playing international football in the lovely red-and-white checkerboard shirts of Croatia since 2006 and has now played a mighty 148 times with 21 goals under his belt. He was a runner-up in the 2018 World Cup, a tournament in which they beat England in the semi-final, and it was Luka who bossed the midfield, took England apart and engineered their comeback from a goal down.

How long will he keep going at the top level? There’s no sign of him quitting yet and once again this year he’s shown there is still magic in his feet.


Why the love?
I would wager that absolutely no-one hates Modric. He’s one of those creative players who everyone loves to watch because, simply, he’s so damn good. He has the ability to see a pass that literally no-one else can see. Not only that, he then has the ability to make the pass accurately and weighted perfectly.

How did he see that pass to Benzema last week? How? It is a pure work of art. The way he runs with the ball, takes a mere glance up, knows the space his striker is running into and hits it with the outside of his right foot as he is running so that it curls away from the defence and lands on the Frenchman’s foot, is beautiful physics.

But this is what he does. It is what he’s always done. Fans get to their feet for strikers who score great goals, for speed merchants who take off at pace, for defenders who clear out a striker. But few players who can pass the ball as a high art form really stir the blood the way Luka does.

Still looking nippy over 10 metres, he can take a ball, instantly control it and take off, releasing the ball left, right or vertical. And that ball, more often than not, is weighted to land slightly ahead of the man running.

Looking at reels of all his goals, the stand-out point is that the majority of the time he hits the ball first time. When he doesn’t he’s dribbling past defenders for fun, smashing it into the net.

While he does consistently wear a worried expression, his forehead creased in an eyebrows raised pleading sort of look, he is a very resolute player, never hides from the ball and I reckon he’s as tough as the proverbial old boot. It is the tricky creative’s lot to get booted up in the air by the more clunky players but even now, at 36, he’s never looked stronger, more solid of thigh and gnarly of attitude. That year in Bosnia really was a good experience.

So far in his career he’s scored 92 club goals in 758 games, you might argue that someone of his stellar talent might have scored more, he has, after all, scored just 31 in 428 games for Real Madrid. However, it has been his misfortune to play in failing sides for some of his career. He won nothing at Spurs, of course. He’s got just two La Liga winners medals and one Copa Del Rey. While four Champions League wins is more than most can ever hope for, and he cleaned up with Zagreb, there is just a feeling that he should have more silverware under his belt.

He is one of the greatest players of his generation, of any generation. So great that he won the 2018 Ballon d’Or ahead of CR7 and the hairdresser’s favourite, Antoine Griezmann. The only time one of The Two Borings has not won it since Kaka, way, way back in 2007 when we were all more lithe, thrusting and frankly gorgeous.


Four great moments

THAT pass

Note how often he hits it first time

A 25-metre thwacker

He is the all-time absolute king of the outside of the foot pass


Future days
Luka is on a year-to-year contract and reports suggest he’s going to sign for another year at Madrid. Well, they’d be lost without him. How do you replace a player like Modric? Who is a young Modric today? Who can do what he does? In time, no-one is irreplaceable, I guess, but I do not want to see football without Luka Modric. Croatia have qualified for the World Cup in Bloody Qatar and Luka will be there to bring some class to proceedings once again.

We are in the last year or two of his career, so let’s savour it. He is a player like no other and he has danced his way across European football for the last couple of decades.

Cheers, Luka, you wee genius.

More Related Articles