Luka Modric: Toughened by the war

Kroatian, La Liga

The house in the Croatian village of Modrici, where Luka Modrić grew up as a little 

shepherd, is in ruins. It is overgrown with plants. The surrounding area is still a minefield. Luka Modrić was six when his grandfather was cornered by Serbian militants and then shot dead.

“My heart breaks when I think of my dying grandfather,” Modrić writes in his autobiography. After the murder, Modrić flees with his parents and lives for months in a hotel without electricity or running water. “These things either break you, or they make you harder,” Modrić said in the interview with The Guardian.

Luka Modrić will again play for Real Madrid next season. ‘I am feeling good and I want to continue playing for Real Madrid as long as I am of value to my team’, Modrić has said He was of value last season. ‘I play at my best when I can string together matches’, he said after an international match with Croatia.

Since JoséMourinho signed him from Tottenham Hotspurs to Real for 30 million euros in 2012, Modrić has won the Champions League four times with the Madrilenians. His contribution to the victories was key all those four times. 

Since the end of March, he has been the Croatian record international. Until then, Darijo Srna was the record holder with 334 international matches. To celebrate the occasion, his teammates gave him a standing ovation and Modrić was in tears. He will start his eighth final tournament this summer. Since his debut as a substitute in the Croatia-Japan match at the 2006 World Cup, Croatia has not missed a single final tournament. A fantastic achievement, although the golden generation never managed to win an international title.

At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the Croats came closest. France became champions, but Luka Modrić was chosen Player of the Tournament in 2018. There was little discussion about this, although his numerical contribution was not vspectacular, with two goals and an assist.

Modrić scored with a long distance shot against Argentina and he did a great job against Russia, but his performance against Denmark wa mediocre. Towards the end of the second overtime, he took a penalty that could have brought his team to the quarter-finals. But Modrić try is far too weak. All of Croatia thinks back to his missed penalty ten years earlier, in the quarter-finals of the European Championship against Turkey. During the penalty shootout after the World Cup match, Modrić shot was too weak also, . He’s lucky that Kasper Schmeichel dives too early. Croatian keeper Danijel Subasić is the man of the evening with three stopped penalties.

When he finally won the Golden Ball in 2018, it came as a surprise. ‘Ridiculous’, was the comment of Jorge Mendes, Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent.

Modrić clearly remembers how his idol Zvonimir Boban reached the semifinals of the World Cup with Croatia in 1998. ‘I was so proud when that fantastic generation won bronze’, Modric says in the biography El Hijo de la Guerra by sports journalists Vincente Azpiratre and Jose Manuel Puertas. ‘I could hardly imagine that one day I would be an international, but I do remember that during that World Cup I dreamed many nights: What if one day I could lead Croatia to a World Cup final myself?.’

Twenty-two years later, Modrić actually played the final of a World Championship, in Moscow against France. Despite winning four Champions League finals, it is probably the highlight of his career. Only a European championship can possibly surpass that.

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