PETE JENSON: Luka Modric is the ‘dad’ of the dressing room, has taken Real Madrid’s emerging talents under his wing and the 36-year-old’s sublime display against Chelsea shows why he can’t be rotated… he IS Real Madrid’s greatest-ever midfielder
- Luka Modric showed no signs of easing up after another masterful performance
- The 36-year-old was at his ever-best to help Real dump Chelsea out of Europe
- His sublime assist for Rodrygo has been labelled as ‘the pass of the decade’
- And there have also been calls for him to have a statue outside the Bernabeu
- He has cemented himself in the club’s history as their greatest-ever midfielder
On a night when Karim Benzema got the winner, Thibaut Courtois kept them in it, and substitutes Rodrygo Goes and Eduardo Camavinga made the difference late on, it says everything about Luka Modric’s status at Real Madrid that he was their man of the match and that he was the player whose name was being sung by supporters after the final whistle.
‘Give him a statue already!’ read one headline in Marca. If Madrid win the tournament he will have five Champions League winner’s medals. Even if they don’t, the man who is pretty much on a ‘stay as long as you want’ rolling one-year contract these days, has already cemented himself in the club’s history as their greatest ever midfielder.
He’s the ‘dad’ of the dressing room. On Father’s Day this year the young Brazilian forward Rodrygo even tweeted ‘Happy Father’s Day’ alongside a picture of him embracing Modric.
Luka Modric showed no signs of slowing down as Real Madrid dumped Chelsea out of Europe
Modric seemed to show more energy than most of the other players on the pitch in extra-time
The 36-year-old Croatia midfielder calls Rodrygo ‘son’ and has taken him under his wing at Madrid, as he has with most of the club’s younger players. ‘When he found out my dad was only a year older than him, he started calling me his son,’ Rodrygo told TNT in a recent interview.
Last night’s ball from Modric, with the outside of his foot, to the Brazilian forward was ‘the pass of the decade’ according to former Rangers and Scotland striker Ally McCoist. And it was what kept Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Modric then seemed to show more energy than most of the other players on the pitch in extra-time as Madrid won the tie with Benzema’s fourth goal across the two legs.
Modric is the ‘dad’ of the dressing room and has taken the younger players under his wing
His outside of his foot assist to set up Real’s first goal was labelled as ‘the pass of the decade’
He finished up playing in holding midfield at the death but he can do it, just as he can play box-to-box as a No 8, or behind the striker as a No 10.
‘The manager made good changes that really helped us,’ Modric said post-match. Tell that to Toni Kroos who was furious about being taken off on 72 minutes, the first of Madrid’s famous midfield three to go.
On 76 minutes Casemiro went off too. Modric was last man standing on, and on 79 minutes he set up the goal that breathed life back into Real Madrid.
Many would have taken Modric off before the other two but Ancelotti knows that you don’t substitute Modric, you don’t even rotate him if you can help it. He is too important.
‘How many more years are you going to be able to be here,’ asked the Spanish pitchside reporter last night. Modric laughed and said: ‘I don’t know. We are taking it year by year. Let’s see how long I still feel good and can continue at his level’.
If Madrid go on to win the tournament, he will have five Champions League winner’s medals
Camavinga and Fede Valverde look promising but the young midfielders will be all the better for sharing a few more seasons with a player who has, in the words of one match report in Spain, ‘the legs of a youngster and the head of an old sage’.
The magic of Modric isn’t just about Madrid either.
He won the Balon d’Or remember? And he did it aged 33. After he was the engine behind Croatia making it to the World Cup final in 2018 – a country of four million people and only 800 registered professionals denied at the last hurdle and powered forward by their indefatigable inspiration.
And Modric is a man who has overcome personal obstacles to get where he is.
He was a young boy during the Balkans conflict and his family fled to Zadar where he lived in a series of hostels before they found a permanent home.
He has already cemented himself in the club’s history as their greatest-ever midfielder
The president of his first-ever club NK Zadar, Josip Bajlo, remembers a kid kicking a ball against the wall of a hostel car park. ‘He was short and skinny for his age but you could see he had something special,’ he said in one interview.
‘I think a lot of the things that happened to me as a child in Croatia have left me feeling like I should never ease up,’ Modric told El Pais in an interview during that World Cup.
He is still not easing up. Closer to 40 than to 30, already with medals and trophies galore but with no desire to stop and with no sign that his hunger, his physical condition, or his glorious football will force him to any time soon.
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