Luka Modrić looked quite elated at the end Croatia’s 4-2 win over the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League semifinal.
After all, the 37-year-old Real Madrid midfielder had scored his side’s fourth goal from the spot a few minutes back. Croatia’s rise to prominence as a major footballing nation was thus underlined once again and their captain played his part yet again.
It was the ageless Croatian’s 24th goal in his 165th international match – quite a staggering tally of appearances by any standard. The former Ballon D’Or winner does not have too many years left in top-flight football and will want to win at least a trophy for the Croatian football team before he hangs up his boots.
His place among the pantheon of great footballers, however, is already ensured.
One of the modern midfield greats
Modrić is undoubtedly one of the midfield maestros of his generation. He caught the attention of the football-lovers in his days of playing for Tottenham Hotspur. Real Madrid then signed him in 2012.
He has since spent more than a decade for the Spanish giants, winning a staggering five UEFA Champions League titles with them. Along with Toni Kroos, he formed one of the greatest central midfield partnerships of the 21st century that served Real Madrid really good. Overall, he has more than 800 matches under his belt for various clubs, which is among the highest any midfielder has managed yet.
However, his finest hour probably came during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where his Croatia side finished as the runners-up. Modrić’s wonderful performance for his national team won him the Golden Ball in the tournament, and also contributed to his winning the Ballon D’Or.
Modrić’s contribution towards making Croatia a force in international football cannot be overstated. He remains their talisman even after having played international football for more than one and a half decades.
Modrić is a versatile player
Modrić’s versatility can be gauged from the fact that he performs a slightly different role for his national team from the one he does for his club. He plays as a pure central midfielder in Real Madrid’s 4-3-3. However, for Croatia, he plays in a slightly more advanced position.
He is usually a pure attacking midfielder cum playmaker for Croatia, and his passing and crossing has been absolutely critical in their recent success. Modrić also has a superior goal-scoring ratio while playing international football.
His vision and ability to find his teammates with through passes remains absolutely top-notch. His performance as the tireless No. 10 in the 2018 World Cup is still fondly remembered by football lovers worldwide.
However, while playing for Real Madrid, he is often compelled to take up more defensive responsibilities. Real often adopts a counter-attacking approach, which means their midfielders have to play in a deeper role.
It is quite a testimony to Modrić’s greatness that he has excelled in those varied roles for his club and country. Croatia will find it very difficult to find another player of his stature, as he might leave too big a hole to fill.