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Luka Modrić

Luka Modrić (Croatian pronunciation: [lûːka mǒːdritɕ];[3][4] born 9 September 1985) is a Croatian professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Spanish club Real Madrid and is the captain of the Croatia national team. Modrić plays mainly as a central midfielder but can also play as an attacking midfielder or as a defensive midfielder, usually deployed as a deep-lying playmaker. Modrić is widely regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation,[nb 1] and among the greatest Croatian footballers of all-time.[nb 2] Able to blend traditional and trequartista playmaking effectively, he is known for his vision, precision in execution, and tactical strategy.

Luka Modrić
ISL-HRV (7).jpg
Modrić with Croatia at the 2018 World Cup
Personal information
Full name Luka Modrić[1]
Date of birth (1985-09-09) 9 September 1985 (age 33)[1]
Place of birth Zadar, SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia
Height 1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)[2]
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current team
Real Madrid
Number 10
Youth career
1996–2001 Zadar
2002–2003 Dinamo Zagreb
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2003–2008 Dinamo Zagreb 94 (26)
2003–2004Zrinjski (loan) 22 (8)
2004–2005Inter Zaprešić (loan) 18 (4)
2008–2012 Tottenham Hotspur 127 (13)
2012– Real Madrid 178 (9)
National team
2001 Croatia U15 2 (0)
2001 Croatia U17 2 (0)
2003 Croatia U18 7 (0)
2003–2004 Croatia U19 11 (2)
2004–2005 Croatia U21 14 (2)
2006– Croatia 116 (14)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 21:44, 11 November 2018 (UTC)
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 21:22, 12 October 2018 (UTC)

Born in Zadar, Modrić's childhood coincided with the Croatian War of Independence which displaced his family. In 2002, he was signed by Dinamo Zagreb at age 16, after showing promise with his hometown club's youth team. He continued his development in Zagreb before spells on loan to Zrinjski Mostar and Inter Zaprešić. He made his debut for Dinamo in 2005 and won three consecutive league titles and domestic cups, being named the Prva HNL Player of the Year in 2007. In 2008, he moved to Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur for a club-record transfer fee of £16.5 million, where he led Spurs to their first UEFA Champions League appearance in almost 50 years, reaching the quarter-finals of the 2010–11 tournament.

After the 2011–12 season, Modrić joined Real Madrid for a £30 million transfer fee, where he became a key contributor under head coach Carlo Ancelotti and helped the team win La Décima during 2013–14 season, being elected to the squad of the season. After Zinedine Zidane took over Madrid, Modrić was critical to three consecutive Champions League titles from 2015–16 to 2017–18, each time being voted into the squad of the season. He would go on to win the La Liga Award for "Best Midfielder" in 2016 for the second time, UEFA Club Football Award for "Best Midfielder" in 2017 and 2018, and UEFA Men's Player of the Year Award and The Best FIFA Men's Player in 2018. In 2015, he became the first Croatian player ever to be included in the FIFA World XI, in which he was included once again between 2016 and 2018, as well in the UEFA Team of the Year in 2016 and 2017.

Modrić made his international debut for Croatia against Argentina in March 2006, and scored his first international goal in a friendly match against Italy. Modrić has since anchored Croatia's "second Golden Generation", participating in every major tournament Croatia has qualified for, including the 2008, 2012, and UEFA Euro 2016, as well the 2006, 2014, and 2018 FIFA World Cup. At UEFA Euro 2008, he was selected for the Team of the Tournament, becoming only the second Croatian to ever achieve this honor. Following group stage eliminations in his first two World Cups, Modrić led Croatia to the 2018 World Cup Final, and he received the Golden Ball award for Best Player of the Tournament. Furthermore, he has been named the Croatian Footballer of the Year six times, tied with Davor Šuker for most wins.

Contents

Early lifeEdit

 
Modrić was born in Zadar, Croatia where he began his youth career at NK Zadar.

Luka Modrić was born on 9 September 1985 and was raised in the hamlet of Modrići which is a part of Zaton Obrovački,[5][6] a village situated on the southern slopes of the mountain Velebit, north of the city of Zadar in SR Croatia, then a republic within SFR Yugoslavia.[7][8][9] He is the oldest child of Stipe Modrić from Modrići and Radojka Dopuđ from Kruševo near Obrovac, both of whom initially worked in knitwear factory.[10][11][12][13] Modrić mostly spent his early years in the house of his paternal grandfather after whom he was named,[5][14] and was shepherding goats as a five-year-old.[15][16][17] However, his childhood coincided with the Croatian War of Independence—in 1991, when the war escalated, his family were forced to flee the area.[7] Modrić's grandfather Luka was executed by Serb rebels who were part of the police of SAO Krajina in December 1991 near his house in Modrići,[7][9][18][19] and after the family fled the house was burned to the ground.[20][21] 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 Zadar.[7][22][23] His father joined the Croatian Army as an aeromechanic.[7][24] In those years, thousands of bombs fell on the city and football was a way to escape the reality of war.[9] He recalls it as a tough time for his family and something which shaped him as a person.[25][26][27] He also said he was mostly unaware of the war because he befriended many other children and their parents did not let it affect their childhood.[12] In these difficult circumstances, Modrić began playing football, mostly at the hotel parking lot.[9] In 1992, he simultaneously entered the primary school and a sporting academy, the latter paid for with the little money the family had, sometimes helped by Modrić's uncle.[7][22][12] As a boy he was inspired to play football by Zvonimir Boban and Francesco Totti.[28]

Club careerEdit

Early yearsEdit

Supported by his family, he participated in representative camps and trained in NK Zadar.[7][12] He was under tutelage of coach Domagoj Bašić and the head of the youth academy, Tomislav Bašić.[7] Tomislav Bašić, considered by Modrić as his "sporting father",[19][23] said Modrić's father made him wooden shin guards because they had little money.[7][25][27] However, Modrić later denied the story.[9] Due to being considered too young and light, he was not signed by Croatian powerhouse Hajduk Split, the most representative football club in the region of Dalmatia.[7][12][29] After displaying some talent, including at youth tournament in Italy,[19] Tomislav Bašić arranged Modrić's move to Dinamo Zagreb when Modrić was a 16-year-old in late 2001.[7][9][30] After a season with Dinamo Zagreb's youth side, Modrić was loaned in 2003 to Zrinjski Mostar in the Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[7][19] During this period, he established his versatile style of play and became Bosnian and Herzegovinian League Player of the Year at age 18.[31] Modrić later said, "Someone who can play in the Bosnian league can play anywhere," referring to its physical nature.[31] The following year, he was loaned to Croatian side Inter Zaprešić. He spent one season there, helping the team to achieve second position in the Croatian First Football League[19][32] and a place in the preliminary round of the UEFA Cup. He also won the Croatian Football Hope of the Year award in 2004.[31] He returned to Dinamo Zagreb in 2005.[31]

Dinamo ZagrebEdit

In the 2005–06 season, Modrić signed a ten-year contract (his first long-term contract) with Dinamo Zagreb.[31] With the contract's earnings, he bought a flat in Zadar for his family.[9][19] He secured a place in Dinamo's first team, contributing 7 goals in 31 matches to help win the league.[33] In the 2006–07 season, Dinamo again won the league, with Modrić making a similar contribution.[33] He was the main provider for striker Eduardo,[31] which helped Modrić win the Prva HNL Player of the Year award.[2] The following season, Modrić led Dinamo's attempt to qualify for the 2007–08 UEFA Cup. In the final play-off stage, Modrić converted a penalty in the second and away fixture against Ajax; the match finished 1–1 after regular time. Dinamo won the match and play-off with a score of 3–2 after extra time with two goals from teammate Mario Mandžukić.[34] However, Dinamo Zagreb failed to advance beyond the group stage. In his last home match with the club at Maksimir Stadium, Modrić was given a standing ovation and fans held up supportive banners.[35][36] He finished his four-year tenure at Dinamo with a tally of over 31 goals and 29 assists in four league seasons,[19][37] contributing most notably in the 2007–08 season when Dinamo won the second Croatian Cup and became champions by a 28-point margin.[38] Modrić was courted by Barcelona, Arsenal and Chelsea, but opted to wait leaving the club.[19][39][40]

Tottenham HotspurEdit

2008–09 seasonEdit

 
Modrić (far left, No. 14), preparing for a match kick-off for Tottenham against Arsenal in November 2010.

Modrić agreed to transfer terms with Tottenham Hotspur on 26 April 2008. He was the first of many summer signings for manager Juande Ramos, and was also the Premier League's first summer transfer.[41] Club chairman Daniel Levy promptly flew to Zagreb when Manchester City and Newcastle United became interested,[42][43] and after signing a six-year contract, Tottenham confirmed the transfer fee paid was £16.5 million, equalling the club's record fee set by Darren Bent's move in 2007.[44] Modrić made his competitive Premier League debut on 16 August in a 2–1 defeat to Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium in Spurs' first match of the 2008–09 season.[45]

Modrić had a slow start at Tottenham. He suffered from a knee injury early in his tenure and was labelled as a light-weight for the Premier League by sections of the media,[30][26] as well as Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger.[46] Reflecting on that, Modrić said that such "critics push you forward to show people they are wrong. Maybe I look lightweight but I am a really strong person mentally and physically, and I never had any problems with my size".[30] This coincided with his poor form, leading to concerns both for himself and Croatia national team head coach Slaven Bilić.[47] Modrić spent his early days at a position of number 10, before being shifted to the left wing to play alongside Wilson Palacios.[46] Spurs teammate Tom Huddlestone later said, "[H]is versatility was probably a blessing and a curse, he was that good that he had to play out of position for a bit."[46]

After the appointment of manager Harry Redknapp, Modrić was given a more familiar role as a central- or left-sided midfielder, allowing him to have more influence on the team and use his footballing talent more productively, for example in a 4–4 draw with arch-rivals Arsenal on 29 October.[48] Redknapp recognised Modrić's value to his side and planned to shape his new team around the Croatian playmaker.[49] He scored his first competitive goal at Tottenham in a 2–2 draw against Spartak Moscow during the UEFA Cup group stages on 18 December 2008.[50] He scored his first Premier League goals against Newcastle United in an away defeat on 21 December, a home win in the third round of the FA Cup against Wigan Athletic on 2 January 2009, and in an away defeat against Manchester United on 25 April 2009.[51] Using Modrić in his former position from Dinamo days made him more effective with performances against Stoke City,[52] Hull City,[53] and most notably on 21 March when he scored the only goal in a win against Chelsea.[54]

2009–10 seasonEdit

Before the 2009–10 season, Harry Redknapp said of Modrić, "[He's] a hell of a player and a manager's dream, so I am told. He trains like a demon and never complains, will work with and without the ball on the field and can beat a defender with a trick or with a pass. He could get into any team in the top four".[55] On 29 August 2009, during Tottenham's 2–1 win over Birmingham City, Modrić was taken off injured with a suspected calf injury.[56] The following day, it was confirmed Modrić had sustained a fracture to his right fibula and was expected to be out for six weeks.[57] He returned on 28 December in the London derby against West Ham United, which Spurs won 2–0 with an 11th-minute goal scored by Modrić using the leg he broke.[58] He again scored in a home win against Everton on 28 February 2010,[59] and in an away defeat against Burnley on 9 May.[60]

On 30 May 2010, Modrić signed a new six-year contract that ran until 2016. Upon signing, he said, "Tottenham Hotspur gave me my chance in the Premier League and I want to go on to achieve great success here with them. Yes, there have been enquiries from other big clubs, but I have no interest in going anywhere. Last season's top-four finish was an indication of where we are as a Club and I feel I can continue to improve and go on to achieve everything I want to at Spurs."[61]

2010–11 seasonEdit

 
Modrić playing against Arsenal in November 2010.

On 11 September 2010, Modrić scored his first goal of the 2010–11 season in a 1–1 away draw at West Bromwich Albion.[62] On 28 November, in a home match against Liverpool, Modrić scored one goal that was later credited as an own goal by Liverpool's defender. After a draw against Manchester United at White Hart Lane in January 2011, Redknapp praised Modrić, saying, "He was unbelievable. Magnificent. He's an amazing footballer, the little man takes the ball in the tightest areas with people around him, wriggling out of situations. He could play in any team in the world."[63] Modrić also scored in Tottenham's 3–2 victory over Stoke City on 9 April,[64] and converted a penalty at Anfield on 15 May in a 2–0 victory over Liverpool.[65]

Modrić helped Tottenham reach their first involvement in the UEFA Champions League. In the first match, against Inter Milan at the San Siro on 20 October, he exited the match early due to injury; Spurs lost 4–3, despite the tremendous efforts of Gareth Bale.[66] On the return match at home, on 2 November, Modrić was given too much space to move and dictate the tempo of the match. He created and assisted for the first goal by Rafael van der Vaart in a 3–1 victory.[67][68] In the next match, against Werder Bremen, Modrić scored the second goal.[69] After a scoreless draw against Milan,[70] Spurs were eliminated from the competition in the quarter-finals by Real Madrid.[71]

Modrić played 32 Premier League matches in the 2010–11 season, scoring three goals, recording two assists and making the highest average number of passes per match for Spurs with 62.5 and an accuracy rate of 87.4%.[72] At the end of the season, Modrić was voted the Tottenham Hotspur F.C. Player of the Year. Then-Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said he would have chosen Modrić as his Player of the Year for that season.[73]

2011–12 seasonEdit

"I spent four great years there with a lot of emotions, with a lot of love from the club and the fans. I enjoyed every moment with Tottenham. But in one moment you feel you need to take a step forward, to go to a higher level. I think it was the right time for me to go, but I will always be thankful to Tottenham for everything they did for me. I became a better player there and they pushed me to this level where I am at the moment."

—Luka Modrić reflecting on negotiations with Chelsea and move to Real Madrid in February 2014.[30]

In mid-2011, Modrić was heavily pursued by Tottenham's London rivals Chelsea, who made a first bid of £22 million, which they increased to £27 million, both of which were rejected by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.[74][75] After the failed bids, Modrić announced he would welcome a move across London and that he had a "gentleman's agreement" with Levy the club would entertain offers from a "big club".[76] Speculation continued throughout the summer transfer window, culminating in Modrić refusing to play in Tottenham's opening match against Manchester United, which ended in a 3–0 loss.[77] Modrić said his "head was not in the right place" as he continued to force a move to Chelsea.[78] On the final day of the transfer window, Chelsea made an offer of £40 million that was again rejected.[79]

After failing to secure a transfer, Spurs manager Harry Redknapp told Modrić to focus on his playing and named him as a starter.[80] On 18 September, he scored his first goal of the season for Tottenham with a shot from 25 yd (23 m) in a 4–0 home win against Liverpool.[81] On 14 January 2012, Modrić scored the only goal in a home draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers.[82] On 31 January in a 3–1 win against Wigan Athletic, he assisted for the first goal with a crossfield pass and scored the second from 20 yd (18 m).[83] For the third time that season, he was included in "Team of the Week".[84] Modrić scored his last goal for Tottenham on 2 May in a 1–4 away win against Bolton Wanderers with a powerful volley from 25 yd (23 m).[85]

Real MadridEdit

2012–13 seasonEdit

On 27 August 2012, Real Madrid announced they had agreed on a deal with Tottenham for an approximate £30 million transfer fee.[86] Modrić signed a five-year contract with the Spanish club.[86][87] Two days later, he made his Real Madrid debut against Barcelona in the second leg final of the 2012 Supercopa de España at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, replacing Mesut Özil in the 83rd minute. Madrid won the match, giving Modrić his first trophy with the club 36 hours after his signing was announced.[88] Despite his positive debut, Modrić at first struggled to settle into the team under manager José Mourinho because of his lack of pre-season training, which he missed as a result of his ongoing transfer negotiations.[30] The presence of veteran midfielder Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira in defensive midfield, and Özil in offensive midfield, usually kept Modrić out of the starting lineup, limiting him to substitute appearances. He mostly played out-of-position for his first few months at the club. He played his first UEFA Champions League match for Real Madrid in the group stage against Manchester City on 18 September, which Madrid won 3–2. On 3 November, Modrić scored his first goal for Real Madrid in the last minute of their 4–0 victory over Real Zaragoza in La Liga.[89] On 17 November, Modrić assisted a Karim Benzema goal, which was eventually ruled an own goal by Jon Aurtenetxe Borde, with a 50 m (55 yd) cross-field pass. It was the first goal in a 5–1 victory over Athletic Bilbao.[90] His most notable match that year was on 4 December, when he assisted for the first two goals of Cristiano Ronaldo and José Callejón with cross-field passes in a 4–1 victory over Ajax in the group stage of the Champions League.[91][92][93]

 
Modrić playing against Sevilla in February 2013.

Modrić started in Real Madrid's home match against rivals Barcelona on 2 March 2013. From a corner kick, he assisted Sergio Ramos to score the winning goal in the 82nd minute, giving Real a victory in El Clásico. On 5 March, Modrić came on as a second-half substitute during the decisive Champions League knockout leg against ten-man Manchester United at Old Trafford. With Madrid behind by a goal, Modrić equalised with a long-range shot from 25 yd (23 m) out and played a key role in the rest of the match, which Real Madrid won 2–1, advancing them to the quarter-finals 3–2 on aggregate.[94][95][96] This match is often seen as the turning point in Modrić's career in Real Madrid.[30] On 16 March, he replicated this performance against Mallorca, giving Real Madrid the lead with a long-range volley from 30 yd (27 m); Real Madrid won the match 5–2.[97] Modrić played as a starter in both Champions League semi-final matches against Borussia Dortmund. In the first leg on 24 April, he played in the attacking midfield position where he did not influence the match and the team lost 4–1. On 30 April, in the second leg 2–0 victory, Modrić played as the deep-lying playmaker, making passes to the attackers and creating several chances; he was among the best-rated players that night.[98][99][100] From March 2013, Modrić's form and influence in the midfield continued to improve, distinguishing himself as a player with most passes completed in his team. On 8 May, he assisted from the corner for the first goal and scored the fourth goal in a 6–2 victory over Málaga.[101]

2013–14 seasonEdit

"He's the head of midfield in a complicated environment. Every day in Madrid pressure is coming at you from all sides. Modrić not only withstands the pressure but has grown among it to be Madrid's best player, with [Cristiano] Ronaldo."

Predrag Mijatović praises Modrić's rising performance and significance for the team in January 2014.[102]

With the arrival of new manager Carlo Ancelotti, Modrić became one of the most frequent starters in the team, being partnered in midfield with Xabi Alonso to provide a balance of defence and attack.[103][104] He was consistently the team's most efficient passer, averaging 90% accuracy in La Liga, and also having the most ball recoveries among the squad.[30][46][103] He scored his first goal of the season in the last Champions League group match against Copenhagen, making it his fifth goal for the club, all five of which were scored from the outside the penalty area.[105] Modrić scored his first goal of the Liga season in a 3–0 away win against Getafe, his sixth goal outside the penalty area.[106] Modrić was on the pitch when Real Madrid won the 2013–14 Copa del Rey after defeating Barcelona 2–1 in the final.[107]

In the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals, Modrić intercepted the ball and assisted Cristiano Ronaldo for the third goal in Real Madrid's 3–0 home victory against Borussia Dortmund. The goal was ultimately decisive because Real went on to lose 2–0 in the second leg, but progressed with a marginal aggregate score of 3–2. In his 100th appearance for the club,[108] Modrić assisted for the first goal in the second leg 4–0 victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final, helping Real Madrid reach the final for the first time in 12 years.[109] He was included in UEFA's Team of the Week for both legs of the semi-final.[110][111] On 24 May in the final, Modrić again assisted from a corner for teammate Sergio Ramos, who scored a 93rd-minute equalizer against local rivals Atlético Madrid. Real won 4–1 in extra time, marking the club's tenth Champions League title, locally known as la Décima ("the tenth").[112] He was included in the UEFA Champions League Team of the Season[113] and received the LFP award for the "Best Midfielder" of the Spanish first league of that season.[114]

2014–15 seasonEdit

In November 2014, Modrić signed a new contract to stay at Real Madrid until 2018.[115] With the departure of Alonso he was partnered with newly arrived Toni Kroos.[116] Real Madrid began the season by winning the UEFA Super Cup over Sevilla[117] Modrić assisted twice for Bale, first against Real Sociedad in La Liga,[118] and second against Basel in the Champions League.[119][120] In the 2–0 away win against Villarreal, Modrić scored his seventh goal from outside of the box.[121]

In late November, Modrić sustained a thigh injury during an international match against Italy, because of which he did not play for three months.[122] He returned in early March 2015, starting in seven matches and proving his form.[123] On 21 April, in the 3–1 home win against Malaga, he strained ligaments in his right knee, because of which he did not play until May.[124][125][126] With his injury, Real Madrid's 22-match winning run in the season came to an end. His absence and the lack of a quality substitute were seen as the main cause of Real Madrid's failure to win matches in La Liga and the Champions League.[127] Ancelotti said, "Modrić has missed most of the year and this has hurt us".[128] Modrić's influence was recognized and he was selected by professional players in the FIFA World XI.[129]

2015–16 seasonEdit

 
Modrić playing against Shakhtar Donetsk during their group stage match in the UEFA Champions League in November 2015.

For the 2015–16 season, Carlo Ancelotti was replaced by Rafael Benítez under whom Modrić continued to be a key midfield player.[130][131] Modrić began the season assisting in September, November and December, and scoring in the 3–4 away win against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League group stage.[132] He sustained a muscular groin injury during an international match in October, initially suggesting an absence of two-to-three weeks.[133] However, by 20 October, he had recovered in time for the match against Paris Saint-Germain.[134]

With the arrival of new manager Zinedine Zidane in January 2016,[135] the relationship between them was noted in the media, with Modrić described as "master of the game",[130][136] and the crucial "connector" of the defence and attack.[137] It was seen in the first three matches, wins against Deportivo de La Coruña and Sporting de Gijón and a draw against Real Betis, in which Modrić was praised for creating chances, his positioning and overall performance and influence.[130][137][138] On 7 February, Modrić scored a winning goal from outside the box in a 1–2 away win against Granada.[139]

Modrić was a regular in the starting lineup when the team won the 2015–16 Champions League in the final against Atlético Madrid.[140] He was included in both Champions League,[141] and La Liga's team of the season.[142] For the second time, he also received the LFP award for the "Best Midfielder" of the Spanish first league.[143] He was for the second time included in the FIFA World XI, and first in the UEFA Team of the Year.[144][145]

2016–17 seasonEdit

On 18 October 2016, Modrić signed a new contract with Real Madrid, keeping him at the club until 2020.[146] Due to injury of a left knee sustained in mid-September, he missed eight matches, returning early November.[147] On 18 December, he won the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup with Real Madrid, receiving the Silver Ball for his performances during the tournament.[148] On 12 March 2017, in a 2–1 win over Real Betis, Modrić played his 200th match for Real Madrid.[149]

Modrić was a regular starter when Real Madrid won the 2016–17 La Liga[150][151] as well as the 2016–17 UEFA Champions League, where he provided the assist for Cristiano Ronaldo's second goal in the final against Juventus.[152] Modrić was included in Champions League team of the season[153] and became the first Croatian to win the Champions League three times.[154] He also received the UEFA Club Football award for Best Midfielder of the Champions League season.[155] In the competition for the UEFA Men's Player of the Year Award, he came fourth,[156] while for 2017 Ballon d'Or, fifth.[157] For the third time, he was also included in the FIFA World XI.[158]

2017–18 seasonEdit

With the departure of James Rodríguez to Bayern Munich, Modrić inherited the team's coveted number 10 jersey for the new season, replacing his previous number 19 jersey.[159] In December, he won the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup with Real Madrid and received the Golden Ball award as the best player of the competition for his performance.[160] His first goal of the season came in a 7–1 win over Deportivo de La Coruña on 21 January 2018.[161] Modrić was a regular starter when Real Madrid won the 2017–18 UEFA Champions League, starting in the final victory against Liverpool which saw Madrid win their third consecutive title.[162] For his performances throughout the campaign, Modrić was included in Champions League team of the season for the third consecutive time.[163] He later received the UEFA Club Football Award for Best Midfielder of the Champions League season for the second consecutive time.[164] For the fourth time, he was also included in the FIFA World XI.[165] In July 2018, it was announced Modrić's Real Madrid jersey was the most requested jersey of the club after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus.[166]

Due to his club, and national team performance at the 2018 FIFA World Cup where also received the Golden Ball,[167] in August and September Modrić won the UEFA Men's Player of the Year Award and The Best FIFA Men's Player,[168][169] making the first time since 2013 and 2008 the awards were not won by Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.[170][171] Furthermore, besides becoming the first Croatian player to win the awards,[172] Modrić is the first player to win in the same year the World Cup Golden Ball and the UEFA award after Ronaldo in 1998,[173] and the FIFA award after Romário in 1994.[174]

2018–19 seasonEdit

The arrival of new manager Julen Lopetegui in August 2018 saw Modrić given a steady return to the first team as a substitute due to his shortened summer rest after the 2018 World Cup.[175][176] This included a substitute appearance in his team's 2–4 loss after extra time against Atlético Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.[177] His first start of the season came on 1 September in a 4–1 home win against Leganés, in which he assisted his side's third goal, scored by Karim Benzema.[178] His 100th appearance in the UEFA club competition came on 19 September in a 3–0 home win against Roma,[15] in which made an assist for the second goal, scored by Gareth Bale.[179]

International careerEdit

 
Modrić at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He is said to anchor Croatia's second Golden Generation.

Modrić began his international career at youth level, playing for the Croatian under-15, under-17, under-18, under-19 and under-21 teams.[31] He debuted in March 2001 for the under-15 team coached by Martin Novoselac, but nevertheless his talent and psychological maturity, he did not become a regular starter and leading player until physically strengthened and debuted for under-18. Novoselac considers him as a model for all young players because is a result of a gradual and continuous work and effort, as well as talent.[180] Modrić made his full international debut for Croatia on 1 March 2006 in a friendly match against Argentina in Basel, which Croatia won 3–2.[31]

2006 World CupEdit

Modrić made two appearances at the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals as a substitute in the group fixtures against Japan[181] and Australia.[182] With the appointment of new manager Slaven Bilić, Modrić earned greater recognition at international level; he scored his first goal in Croatia's 2–0 friendly win over Italy on 16 August 2006 in Livorno.[183]

Euro 2008Edit

Modrić's performances ensured a regular place in the international side; he gave a successful showing in Croatia's UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, which included home and away victories against England.[184][185] As a young midfielder, much was expected of Modrić; he was often dubbed "the Croatian Cruyff".[40][186] Modrić scored Croatia's first goal of Euro 2008, converting a penalty in the fourth minute of their 1–0 victory against Austria on 8 June 2008.[187] It was the fastest penalty ever awarded and scored in European Championship history.[188] He continued to impress at the tournament and was named UEFA Man of the Match in Croatia's next match when they defeated one of the pre-tournament favourites and eventual finalists Germany.[189] In the quarter-final against Turkey, Modrić took advantage of a mistake by veteran Turkish goalkeeper Rüştü Reçber, and crossed to teammate Ivan Klasnić for the first goal of the match with one minute of extra time remaining, but Semih Şentürk almost immediately equalised for Turkey. In the ensuing penalty shootout, Modrić's kick was off-target and he failed to score the first penalty and Turkey won the shootout 3–1.[190] At the end of the competition, Modrić was included in the UEFA Team of the Tournament, becoming only the second Croatian to achieve this honour after Davor Šuker.[191]

Euro 2012Edit

In the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, Modrić scored three goals, against Kazakhstan,[192] Andorra[193] and Ukraine;[194] matching Ivica Olić, Ivan Rakitić and Eduardo. The team failed to qualify by being one point behind Ukraine. After appearing in all of their UEFA Euro 2012 qualifier matches and scoring a goal against Israel,[195] Modrić started in all three of Croatia group stage matches against the Republic of Ireland, Italy and Spain, but the team failed to progress. His most notable performance was against Spain. The most memorable moment of the match came when Modrić picked the ball on the halfway line skipping Spain's midfield trio, rushing down on the right to reach the penalty area where he evaded a defender and crossed from 18 yd (16 m) to Ivan Rakitić, but Iker Casillas saved this attempt.[196][197] Because Croatia did not advance from the group stage, Modrić was not included in the Team of the Tournament, although The Daily Telegraph included him in the best 11 until the semi-finals[198] and his play was well received by critics.[199][200]

2014 World CupEdit

 
Modrić playing against Neymar of Brazil at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

After the playoffs, Modrić with the Croatian team qualified for the 2014 World Cup. They entered Group A with Brazil, Mexico and Cameroon. Croatia played the opening match against Brazil, which they lost 3–1,[201] and Modrić sustained a minor foot injury.[202][203] In the second match, Croatia won 4–0 against Cameroon,[204] but did not progress to the knockout stage after losing 3–1 to Mexico,[205] despite the great expectations from the Croatian press and public.[206]

Euro 2016Edit

In the Euro 2016 qualifying rounds, Modrić scored his first goals for Croatia in three years, the first against Malta on his 29th birthday with a long-range shot,[207] then a penalty against Azerbaijan.[208] On 3 March 2015, Modrić captained Croatia for the first time, in an away draw against Azerbaijan.[209] In the tournament proper, Modrić scored the match-winning goal in Croatia's opening group stage match against Turkey, a volley from 25 metres (28 yards).[210] In so doing, he became the first Croatian to score at the finals of two separate European Championships, having previously scored against Austria in 2008.[211] He was named Man of the Match.[210] Modrić was forced to miss the crucial fixture against Spain on 21 June because of a minor muscle injury.[212][213]

2018 World CupEdit

 
Modrić attempting a shot during the World Cup.

In Croatia's 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, Modrić scored a penalty against Greece in the second qualifying round, enabling his team to qualify for the World Cup. Croatia were placed in Group D alongside Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria. During the tournament, Modrić—along with Ivan Rakitić and Mario Mandžukić—were referred to as Croatia's second "Golden Generation".[214][215] In Croatia's opening win against Nigeria, Modrić once again successfully executed a penalty kick and was named Man of the Match.[216][217] He also scored in Croatia's subsequent 3–0 win over Argentina with a long-range shot from 25 yards (23 metres),[218] also being named Man of the Match.[219][220] After also featuring in the final group stage match, against Iceland, his performances in the first round of the tournament saw him ranked by FourFourTwo, The Daily Telegraph and ESPN as the best player of the group stage.[221][222][223]

In the round of 16 against Denmark on 1 July, with the score tied at 1–1, Modrić created a goalscoring opportunity for Ante Rebić in the second half of extra-time, who was brought down in the penalty area; Modrić proceeded to take the penalty, but his strike was saved by Kasper Schmeichel. However, Modrić managed to score his spot-kick during the ensuing penalty shoot-out and Croatia advanced to the next round following a 3–2 victory on penalties.[224][225][226] In the quarter-finals against hosts Russia on 7 July, Modrić provided an assist in extra-time for Domagoj Vida from a corner kick, and once again scored in the victorious penalty shoot-out following a 2–2 draw; he was named Man of the Match for the third time in the tournament.[227][228] In the semi-final against England on 11 July, Croatia advanced to the World Cup final for the first time in their history following a 2–1 victory in extra time.[229] It was reported two days before the final match that Modrić ran the most miles out of any player and was third by created chances, as well had most dribbles per match and completed passes in the opponent's half in his team.[230] Although Croatia was beaten 4–2 by France in the final on 15 July,[231] Modrić was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament.[167] After the squad's huge welcome in Zagreb,[232] Modrić and his teammates were welcomed by tens of thousands of people in his hometown of Zadar.[233]

Player profileEdit

Style of playEdit

"Not only is he a very hard worker, he has a good brain and he provided some calmness and composure to the midfield. His passing was neat and his contribution was outstanding. He was not only winning the ball, he was passing well. We thought that he was very influential. He did not just work hard, he made the other people play well around him".

Gérard Houllier, UEFA Technical Team[189]

A diminutive midfielder, Modrić is described as a quick and creative playmaker, with great vision, who is able to change the course of the game with a deft pass, or with a solo, long-range effort.[234] He is able to play with both feet and combines this with his swift, offensive positioning off the ball.[235] He is noted for his ability to pass the ball accurately across long or short distances, even with the outside of his boot, as well as his ball control, first touch, positional play,[236] and his ability to retain possession[46] and set the tempo of the game.[237][238][239] A former attacking midfielder,[240] he is also noted for his passing range and dribbling skills,[241] and is considered as a master of the "pre-assist".[46] He is often referred to as the Midfield Maestro ("Midfield Master")[242][243] for his mastery of footballing fundamentals, tactical strategy, and precision in execution.[237][244] His tactical vision and strategic planning has had him compared to a conductor of an orchestra,[128][245] a "puppet master",[246] and a "midfield magician".[247] When arrived at Real Madrid he was nicknamed by the Spanish media as El Pájaro ("the bird"),[248] while in the dressing room was simply called "Lukita".[249]

PositionEdit

Modrić's complex game has brought him consistent success in the clubs for which he has played. Initially a trequartista or attacking midfielder at Dinamo Zagreb and in his early career at Tottenham, in the 2010–11 season he flourished in a central midfield role as a deep-lying playmaker (regista) who conducts the attack and creates chances for teammates.[250] Although a central midfielder, Modrić is also a hard-working player who has been seen to adopt a defensive midfield role in addition to playmaking, tracking back to win the ball from the opposition and prepare for a counter-attack, making him one of the most versatile players in the world, capable of playing in several midfield positions.[235][240] According to Jonathan Wilson, in a 4–2–3–1 system Modrić is a third type of a holding midfielder, being "neither entirely destructive or creative", but a "carrier" who is "capable of making late runs or carrying the ball at his feet", but in his case "with a hint of regista".[251]

The switch to a more deep-lying position reduced his number of assists and goals, as well as his shot per game count (1.2), although his game was no longer based on being a goal threat; despite this, he had the second-highest count of key passes per game (2.06) in the team, as well as a very high pass accuracy rate (87%), with the highest passes per game count (62.5) in the team, the most long balls per game (5.6), the most successful dribbles (2.2), interceptions (2.5), and the highest tackle (1.9) count per game among others, high statistics which placed him amongst the top midfielders of the Premier League.[250][252] By the 2011–12 season statistically he was among the top-rated central and all-round midfielders across the top five leagues, alongside players like Xabi Alonso, Andrea Pirlo, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Xavi.[253][254]

Upon Modrić's arrival to Real Madrid, his midfield position was described as numbers six (defensive), eight (central) or ten (attacking), depending on the tactics,[255] and his role was described as the second deep-lying pivot alongside Xabi Alonso in the 2012–13 season, a classic deep-lying playmaker whose creativity was needed to dictate his team's play and unlock the opposing defence.[256][257] In the first half of the 2013–14 season, during which he formed an effective central midfield partnership with Alonso and Ángel Di María, Modrić made more tackles (56) than any other Real Madrid player in La Liga with an average number of 2.86 tackles per match, as well as making the most completed passes (878) in the opposition half of the pitch among Real Madrid players, with the highest passing accuracy in La Liga (90%) (also the highest of any midfielder in Europe's top five leagues who have made five or more assists during the season).[30] In the 2014–15 season, with the arrival of Toni Kroos, Real Madrid no longer had an effective and natural ball-winner alongside their playmakers in midfield, while the team possessed many attackers. Therefore, in addition to producing the highest count of passes (60.7–64.7) and key passes per match (0.8–1.2) within the team, both Modrić and Kroos had more defensive responsibility to set the rhythm of the team's gameplay in midfield and orchestrate counterattacks.[258][259] Modrić's average passing accuracy during the season was between 91.6–92%, while his highest completion rate in a single match occurred in October against Barcelona when he completed all 42 attempted passes.[260] For all of 2014, Modrić's dribble attempts (75) at a success rate of 76% were second in Europe's top five leagues.[261]

ReceptionEdit

 
Considered the most versatile and critical member of the national team, Modrić's technical ability has been heralded by both players and coaches.

Modrić is widely regarded as one of most well-rounded and effective midfielders in the world.[258][262][263][264][265][266] According to Jonathan Wilson, what sets apart Modrić from old-school playmakers (number ten) like Juan Román Riquelme is the universality due to increased defensive responsibility, a quality which was insisted by Valeriy Lobanovskyi and Arrigo Sacchi that should make a modern footballer.[267][268]

Modrić's skill in the game was recognized early by Dragan Stojković (Piksi), who stated, "I saw a small blond boy who played exactly like I would. Ideas he was showing then on the terrain were fascinating".[269] Piksi considered him, along with Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, as the most intelligent player.[269] Johan Cruyff said Modrić's quality and influence on the game depend on the freedom he gets.[270] Paul Scholes, who played several times against Modrić, said in an interview with the Manchester Evening News in 2011, "Of the three (Samir Nasri and Wesley Sneijder), Modrić, has been the one I have been most impressed with, [and] whenever we played Tottenham, he was the one who stood out".[271] In 2014, Zinedine Zidane included Modrić in his best XI currently playing the game.[272] Andriy Shevchenko has stated that he considers Modrić to be one of the greatest midfielders to ever play.[273] In 2018, Robert Prosinečki, with whom Ivan Rakitić agreed, considered Modrić as the best Croatian player in the history.[42][274][275] Davor Šuker also considered him as the greatest Croatian footballer of all time.[276]

José Mourinho said he wanted Modrić in Real Madrid because of his influence on the game, tactical level and because he has "that artistic sense".[255] In 2012, Carlo Ancelotti praised Modrić's technique and versatility as a midfield player, stating, "Modric is an outstanding player and in my opinion one of the best midfielders in the world right now, because he can play in more than one position".[277][278] Alex Ferguson regarded him highly as a player while he played in the Premier League, saying it is fair to compare him to Paul Scholes because both are intelligent footballers with good passing consistencies, control of the game, fairplay,[279] and wanted to sign him.[42][280] Slaven Bilić said Modrić "is a player who makes others better, they all benefit from him being in the team. He's not selfish, he's playing for the team ... he's a complete player; good in defence, good in offence—it looks like he was born with the ball at his feet".[46] Others managers who have praised Modrić's game include Pep Guardiola[281] and Sven-Göran Eriksson.[282]

Personal lifeEdit

Modrić married Vanja Bosnić in May 2010 in the Croatian capital Zagreb in a private ceremony after four years of dating,[283] and a year later in church.[284] Their son, Ivano, was born on 6 June 2010.[285][286] Their daughter, Ema, was born on 25 April 2013.[286][287] Their second daughter, Sofia, was born on 2 October 2017.[288] Modrić generally maintains a low profile outside of football.[30][289]

Legal issuesEdit

In March 2018, in an embezzlement and tax evasion trial against the former Dinamo Zagreb executive, Zdravko Mamić, Modrić was called as a witness.[290] Throughout the mid-late 2000s, Modrić signed multiple contracts with Mamić to play at Dinamo Zagreb.[291][292] Modrić annexed most of his Tottenham transfer fee to Mamić because he was the broker of the move and gave Modrić financial backing early on in his career.[293][294] Despite stating in 2017 that he signed the annex clause of the contract ten years earlier, in his testimony he stated that he signed it in 2004, the year of his first contract. Modrić was charged with perjury for stating that he annexed his fee at an earlier date than he allegedly had.[290] Facing the judge, he said, "I came here to state my defence and tell the truth, like every time so far. My conscience is clear".[292][295] The Croatian Football Federation stood behind Modrić,[292] but a part of the Croatian public, frustrated with the corruption in Croatian football, perceived the alleged perjury as a defence of Mamić and became critical of Modrić.[296][297][298] Some international news outlets praised him for dealing with the stress of his legal situation while performing with the Croatian team at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.[299] In October 2018, the perjury charge was rejected by the Croatian court.[300]

Career statisticsEdit

ClubEdit

As of 11 November 2018
Club Season League Cup[a] Europe[b] Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Zrinjski Mostar (loan)
2003–04 Bosnian Premier League 22 8 0 0 0 0 22 8
Inter Zaprešić (loan)
2004–05 Prva HNL 18 4 0 0 0 0 18 4
Dinamo Zagreb
2004–05 7 0 1 0 0 0 8 0
2005–06 32 7 1 0 0 0 33 7
2006–07 30 6 8 2 6 0 44 8
2007–08 25 13 8 1 10 3 43 17
Total 94 26 18 3 16 3 128 32
Tottenham Hotspur
2008–09 Premier League 34 3 6 1 4 1 44 5
2009–10 25 3 7 0 0 0 32 3
2010–11 32 3 2 0 9 1 43 4
2011–12 36 4 2 0 2 1 40 5
Total 127 13 17 1 15 3 159 17
Real Madrid
2012–13 La Liga 33 3 9 0 11 1 53 4
2013–14 34 1 6 0 11 1 51 2
2014–15 16 1 2 0 7 0 25 1
2015–16 32 2 0 0 12 1 44 3
2016–17 25 1 2 0 14 0 41 1
2017–18 26 1 3 0 14 1 43 2
2018–19 12 0 0 0 4 0 16 0
Total 178 9 22 0 73 4 273 13
Career total 439 60 57 4 104 10 600 74

InternationalEdit

As of 12 October 2018
Croatia[33]
Year Apps Goals
2006 12 2
2007 10 1
2008 11 3
2009 3 1
2010 8 0
2011 9 1
2012 9 0
2013 10 0
2014 11 2
2015 4 0
2016 8 1
2017 8 1
2018 13 2
Total 116 14

International goalsEdit

As of match played on 15 July 2018. Croatia score listed first, score column indicates score after each Modrić goal.[301]
International goals by date, venue, cap, opponent, score, result and competition
No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 16 August 2006 Stadio Armando Picchi, Livorno, Italy   Italy
2–0
2–0
Friendly
2 7 October 2006 Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia   Andorra
7–0
7–0
UEFA Euro 2008 qualification
3 7 February 2007 Stadion Kantrida, Rijeka, Croatia   Norway
2–0
2–1
Friendly
4 8 June 2008 Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna, Austria   Austria
1–0
1–0
UEFA Euro 2008
5 6 September 2008 Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia   Kazakhstan
2–0
3–0
2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
6 15 October 2008   Andorra
3–0
4–0
7 6 June 2009   Ukraine
2–2
2–2
8 6 September 2011   Israel
1–1
3–1
UEFA Euro 2012 qualification
9 9 September 2014   Malta
1–0
2–0
UEFA Euro 2016 qualification
10 13 October 2014 Stadion Gradski vrt, Osijek, Croatia   Azerbaijan
5–0
6–0
11 12 June 2016 Parc des Princes, Paris, France   Turkey
1–0
1–0
UEFA Euro 2016
12 9 November 2017 Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia   Greece
1–0
4–1
2018 FIFA World Cup qualification
13 16 June 2018 Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad, Russia   Nigeria
2–0
2–0
2018 FIFA World Cup
14 21 June 2018 Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia   Argentina
2–0
3–0

HonoursEdit

ClubEdit

Modrić congratulated by bishops of Almudena Cathedral after winning the 2017–18 UEFA Champions League.
Modrić accepting the Golden Ball award at the hands of Vladimir Putin after the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final.

Dinamo Zagreb[2]

Real Madrid[2]

InternationalEdit

Croatia

IndividualEdit

OrdersEdit

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^
  2. ^

ReferencesEdit

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Further readingEdit

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