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Luka Modrić

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Luka Modrić
Shahter-Reak M 2015 (10).jpg
Modrić playing for Real Madrid in 2015
Personal information
Full name Luka Modrić[1]
Date of birth (1985-09-09) 9 September 1985 (age 32)[1]
Place of birth Zadar, SFR Yugoslavia
Height 1.74 m (5 ft 9 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 (27)
2003–2004 Zrinjski (loan) 22 (8)
2004–2005 Inter Zaprešić (loan) 18 (4)
2008–2012 Tottenham Hotspur 127 (13)
2012– Real Madrid 143 (8)
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 15 (2)
2006– Croatia 99 (11)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 17 September 2017.
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 6 September 2017

Luka Modrić (Croatian pronunciation: [lûːka mǒːdrit͡ɕ]; born 9 September 1985) is a Croatian professional footballer who plays for Spanish club Real Madrid and captains the Croatia national team.[3] 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.[4]

Born in Zadar, Modrić was signed by Dinamo Zagreb in 2002 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 with them, being named the Prva HNL Player of the Year in 2007. In 2008, he moved to Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, where he led the Spurs to their first UEFA Champions League appearance in almost 50 years, reaching the quarter-finals of the 2010–11 tournament.[5]

After the 2011–12 season, he moved to Real Madrid for a fee of £33 million, where he became a key contributor under coach Carlo Ancelotti and helped the team to win La Décima, being elected to the Squad of the Season. In 2016 and 2017, he won his second and third Champions League's with the squad and election to the Squad of the Season on both, as well as receiving the La Liga Award for the "Best Midfielder" in 2016 for the second time.

Modrić made his debut for Croatia against Argentina in March 2006, and he has since participated in every major tournament that Croatia have qualified for, including the 2006 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He scored his first international goal in a friendly match against Italy. At the 2008 Euros, he was elected to the Team of the Tournament, becoming only the second Croatian to ever achieve this honour.[6]

Modrić is widely considered to be one of the best midfielders in the world.[7][8][9][10] In 2015, he became the first Croatian player ever to be included in the FIFA World XI,[11] in which he was included once again in 2016,[12] as well in the UEFA Team of the Year in 2016.[13] He has been named the Croatian Footballer of the Year five times, ranking behind only six-time winner Davor Šuker for most wins.[14]

Club career[edit]

Early years[edit]

Luka Modrić was born on 9 September 1985 and was raised in the hamlet of Modrići[15] near Zaton Obrovački, a village close to Zadar in SR Croatia, then a republic within Yugoslavia.[16][17][18] He is the oldest child of aeromechanic Stipe and textile worker Radojka.[15][19][20] His childhood coincided with the Croatian War of Independence; in 1991 when the war escalated, his family were forced to flee the area.[16] His father joined the Croatian Army.[16] Modrić's grandfather Luka and six other elderly civilians were executed by Croatian Serb rebels in December 1991 in the village of Jesenice.[16][18][21]

Modrić became a refugee and lived with his family in the Hotel Kolovare for seven years, later moved to the Hotel Iž, in Zadar.[16][22][23] In those years thousands of grenades fell on the city and football was a way to escape the reality.[18] He has said he was mostly unaware of the war because he befriended many other children and their parents did not let it affect their childhoods.[20] In these difficult circumstances, Modrić began playing football, mostly at the hotel parking lot.[18] 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.[16][22][20] Supported by his family, he participated in representative camps and trained in NK Zadar.[16][20] He was under tutelage of coach Domagoj Bašić and the head of the youth academy Tomislav Bašić.[16] Tomislav, considered by Modrić as his "sporting father",[23] said Modrić's father made him wooden shin guards because they had little money,[16] Modrić, however, denied those claims.[18] Due to being considered too young and light-weight he was not signed by Hajduk from Split, the most representative team in the region of Dalmatia.[16][20][24] After displaying some talent, Tomislav Bašić arranged Modrić's move to Dinamo Zagreb when was 16-year-old in late 2001.[16][18][25]

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.[16] During this period he established his versatile style of play and became the Bosnian and Herzegovinian League Player of the Year while still 18 years old.[26] Modrić later said, "someone who can play in the Bosnian league can play anywhere", referring to its physical nature.[26] The following year, he was loaned out to Croatian side Inter Zaprešić. He spent one season there, helping the team to achieve second position in the Croatian First Football League[27] and a place in the preliminary round of the UEFA Cup, now Europa League preliminary round. He also won the Croatian Football Hope of the Year award in 2004.[26] He returned to Dinamo Zagreb in 2005.[26]

Dinamo Zagreb[edit]

In the 2005–06 season, Modrić signed a ten-year contract, his first long-term contract, with Dinamo Zagreb,[26] and with the contract earnings he bought a flat in Zadar for his family to be no longer refugees.[18] He secured a place in Dinamo's first team, contributing seven goals in 31 matches to help win the league.[28] In the 2006–07 season, Dinamo again won the league with Modrić making a similar contribution,[28] being main assist for Eduardo da Silva,[26] which was acknowledged with the Prva HNL Player of the Year award.[2] The following season, he led Dinamo's attempt to qualify for the UEFA Cup 2007–08. In the final play-off stage, Modrić converted a penalty in the second and away fixture against AFC Ajax; the game finished 1–1 after regular time. Dinamo won the game and play-off with a score of 3–2 after extra time with two goals from teammate Mario Mandžukić.[29] However, Dinamo Zagreb failed to advance beyond the group stage. At his last home game with the club at Maksimir Stadium, Modrić was given a standing ovation and fans held up supportive banners.[30][31] He finished his four-year tenure at Dinamo with a tally of over 31 goals and 29 assists in four league seasons,[32] contributing most notably in the 2007–08 season when Dinamo won the second Croatian Cup and became champions by a 28-point margin.[33] Modrić was courted by Barcelona, Arsenal and Chelsea, but he decided to wait.[4][34]

Tottenham Hotspur[edit]

2008–09 season[edit]

Modrić in a game against Chelsea, 2008.

Modrić agreed transfer terms with Tottenham Hotspur on 26 April 2008. He was the first of many summer signings for coach Juande Ramos and was also the Premier League's first summer transfer.[35] After signing a six-year contract, Tottenham confirmed the fee paid was £16.5 million, equalling the club's record fee set by Darren Bent's move in 2007.[36] Modrić made his competitive Premier League debut on 16 August in a match that ended in a 2–1 defeat by Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium in Spurs' first match of the 2008–09 season.[37]

Modrić had a slow start at Tottenham; he suffered from a knee injury early in his career there and was labelled as a light-weight by sections of the media,[25][38] and Arsène Wenger.[39] This coincided with his poor form, leading to concerns both for himself and Croatia manager Slaven Bilić.[40] Modrić spent his early days at a position of number 10, before being shifted to the left wing to play alongside Wilson Palacios.[39] Spurs team-mate Tom Huddlestone later said, "his versatility was probably a blessing and a curse, he was that good that he had to play out of position for a bit".[39]

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.[41] Since this performance, his form improved considerably, coinciding with his club's improved performance in the league. Redknapp recognised Modrić's value to his side, planning to shape his new team around the Croatian playmaker.[42] Modrić 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.[43] 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 on 2 January 2009, and in an away defeat against Manchester United on 25 April 2009.[44]

Using Modrić in his former position from Dinamo Zagreb days made him more effective with inspirational performances against Stoke City,[45] Hull City,[46] and most notably on 21 March when he scored the only goal in a win against Chelsea.[47]

2009–10 season[edit]

Ahead of the 2009–10 season, 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 and he’ll be even better this season."[48] On 29 August 2009, during Tottenham's 2–1 win over Birmingham City, Modrić was taken off injured with a suspected calf injury.[49] The following day, it was confirmed that Modrić had sustained a fracture to his right fibula and was expected to be out for six weeks.[50] 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.[51] He again scored in a home win against Everton on 28 February 2010,[52] and in an away defeat against Burnley on 9 May.[53]

On 30 May 2010, Modrić was awarded with a new six-year contract that ran until 2016; 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".[54]

2010–11 season[edit]

Modrić playing for Tottenham in 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.[55] 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."[56] Modrić also scored in Tottenham's 3–2 victory over Stoke City on 9 April,[57] and converted a penalty at Anfield on 15 May in a 2–0 victory over Liverpool.[58]

Modrić helped Tottenham reach their first involvement in the Champions League. In the first game with Inter Milan at San Siro on 20 October, he exited the game early because of an injury; Spurs lost 4–3, despite the tremendous efforts of Gareth Bale.[59] On the return match at home, on 2 November, Modrić was given too much space to move and dictate the tempo of the game. He created and assisted for the first goal by Rafael van der Vaart in a 3–1 victory.[60][61] In the next game with Werder Bremen, Modrić scored the second goal.[62] After a scoreless draw against A.C. Milan,[63] Spurs were eliminated from the competition in the quarter-finals by Real Madrid.[64]

Modrić played 32 Premier League games in the 2010–11 season, scoring three goals, recording two assists and making the highest average number of passes per game for Spurs, with 62.5, at an accuracy rate of 87.4%.[65] At the end of the season, Modrić was voted the Tottenham Hotspur F.C. Player of the Year. Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United, said he would have chosen Modrić as his Player of the Year for that season.[66]

2011–12 season[edit]

In mid-2011, Modrić was heavily pursued by Tottenham's London rivals Chelsea, who made an initial bid of £22 million, which they increased to £27 million, both of which were rejected by chairman Daniel Levy.[67][68] After the failed bids, Modrić announced he would welcome a move across London and that he had a "gentleman's agreement" with Daniel Levy that the club would entertain offers from a "big club".[69] 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.[70] Modrić said his "head was not in the right place" as he continued to force a move to Chelsea.[71] On the final day of the transfer window, Chelsea made an offer of £40 million that was again rejected.[72]

"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."
— Luka Modrić, on negotiations with Chelsea and move to Real Madrid.[25]

After failing to secure a transfer, team manager Harry Redknapp told Modrić to focus on his playing and named him as a starter.[73] 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.[74] On 14 January 2012, Modrić scored the only goal in a home draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers.[75] On 31 January in a 3–1 win against Wigan, he assisted for the first goal with a crossfield pass and scored the second from 20 yd (18 m).[76] For the third time that season, he was included in "Team of the Week".[77] 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).[78]

Real Madrid[edit]

2012–13 season[edit]

On 27 August 2012, Real Madrid announced they had agreed a deal with Tottenham for a fee in the region of £30 million. Modrić signed a five-year contract with the Spanish club.[79][80] 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 game, giving Modrić his first trophy with the club 36 hours after his signing was announced.[81] Despite his positive debut, Modrić initially 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.[25] 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 and mostly playing out-of-position for his first few months at the club. He played his first UEFA Champions League game for Real Madrid in a group match 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.[82] 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.[83] His most notable game 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.[84][85][86]

Modrić playing for Real Madrid against Sevilla in 2013.

Modrić started in Real Madrid's home game against their league 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 game, which Real Madrid won 2–1, advancing them to the quarter-finals 3–2 on aggregate.[87][88][89] This game is often seen as the turning point in Modrić's career in Real Madrid.[25] On 16 March, he replicated this performance against Real Mallorca, giving Real Madrid the lead with a long range volley from 30 yd (27 m); Real Madrid won the game 5–2.[90] Modrić played as a starter in both Champions League semi-final games against Borussia Dortmund. In the first leg on 24 April, he played in the attacking midfield position where he did not influence the game and the team lost 4–1. On 30 April, in the second leg 2–0 victory, Modrić played as the deep-lying playmaker, providing passes for the attackers and creating several opportunities; he was among the best-rated players that night.[91][92][93] 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.[94]

2013–14 season[edit]

With the arrival of new manager Carlo Ancelotti, Modrić became one of the most-frequent starters in the team, being partnered in midfield with Alonso to provide a balance of defence and attack.[95][96] 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.[25][39][95] He scored his first goal of the season in the last Champions League group game against Copenhagen, making it his fifth goal for the club, all five of which were scored from the outside the box.[97] Modrić scored his first goal of the Spanish league season in a 3–0 away win against Getafe, which marked his sixth goal outside of the box.[98] Modrić was on the pitch when Real Madrid won the 2013–14 Copa del Rey, defeating Barcelona 2–1 in the final.[99]

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 game for the club,[100] 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.[101] He was included in UEFA's Team of the Week for both legs of the semi-final.[102][103] 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").[104] He was included in the UEFA Champions League Team of the Season[105] and received the LFP award for the "Best Midfielder" of the Spanish first league of that season.[106]

2014–15 season[edit]

In November 2014, Modrić signed a new contract to stay at Real Madrid until 2018.[107] With the departure of Alonso he was partnered with newly arrived Toni Kroos.[108] Real Madrid began the season by winning the UEFA Super Cup over Sevilla[109] Modrić assisted twice for Bale, first against Real Sociedad in La Liga,[110] and second against Basel in the Champions League.[111][112] In the 2–0 away win against Villarreal, Modrić scored his seventh goal from outside of the box.[113]

In late November, Modrić sustained a thigh injury during an international match against Italy, because of which he did not play for three months.[114] He returned in early March 2015, starting in seven games and proving his form.[115] 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.[116][117][118] With his injury, Real Madrid's 22-game 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.[119] Ancelotti said, "[W]e missed Modric for almost all the games since the turn of the year and it cost us."[120] Modrić's influence on the game was recognized and he was selected by professional players in the FIFA World XI.[11]

2015–16 season[edit]

Modrić playing against Shakhtar Donetsk during their group stage match in the UEFA Champions League, 25 November 2015.

Ancelotti was replaced by Rafael Benítez, under whom Modrić continued to be a key midfield player.[121][122] 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.[123] He sustained a muscular groin injury during an international game in October, initially suggesting an absence of two-to-three weeks,[124] but by 20 October had recovered in time for the game against Paris Saint-Germain.[125]

With the arrival of new manager Zinedine Zidane in January 2016,[126] the relationship between them was noted in the media, with Modrić described as "master of the game",[121][127] and the crucial "connector" of the defence and attack.[128] It was seen in the first three games, 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 on the game.[121][128][129] On 7 February, Modrić scored a winning goal from outside the box in a 1–2 away win against Granada.[130]

He was a regular starter when the team won the 2015–16 Champions League.[131] He was included in both Champions League,[132] and La Liga's team of the season.[133] For the second time received the LFP award for the "Best Midfielder" of the Spanish first league.[134] He was for the second time included in the FIFA World XI, and first in the UEFA Team of the Year.[12][13]

2016–17 season[edit]

On 18 October 2016, Modrić signed a new contract with Real Madrid, keeping him at the club until 2020.[135] Due to injury of a left knee sustained in mid-September he missed eight games until early November.[136] On 18 December, with the team he won the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup and received the Silver Ball award for his performance.[137] On 12 March 2017, in a 2–1 win over Betis, Modrić played his 200th game for Real Madrid.[138]

He was a regular starter when Madrid won the 2016–17 La Liga,[139][140] and the 2016–17 UEFA Champions League where provided an assist for Ronaldo's second goal.[141] He was included in Champions League team of the season.[142] Modrić became the first Croatian to win the Champions League competition three times.[143] He received the UEFA Club Football award for Best Midfielder of the Champions League season.[144]

2017–18 season[edit]

With the departure of James Rodríguez to Bayern Munich, Modrić inherited the jersey with lucrative number 10, replacing his number 19 jersey, for the new season.[145]

International career[edit]

Modrić battles Portugal's João Moutinho for the ball in a friendly match on 10 June 2013.

Modrić began his international career at youth level, playing for the Croatian under-17, under-19 and under-21 teams.[26] He made his full international debut for Croatia on 1 March 2006 in a friendly match against Argentina in Basel, which Croatia won 3–2.[26]

2006 World Cup[edit]

Modrić made two appearances at the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals as a substitute in the group fixtures against Japan[146] and Australia.[147] 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.[148]

Euro 2008[edit]

Modrić's performances ensured a regular place in the international side; he gave an impressive showing in Croatia's successful UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, which included home and away victories against England.[149][150] As a young midfielder, much was expected of Modrić; he was often dubbed "the Croatian Cruyff".[34] 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.[151] It was the fastest penalty ever awarded and scored in European Championship history.[152] He continued to impress at the tournament and was named UEFA Man of the Match in Croatia's next game when they defeated one of the pre-tournament favourites and eventual finalists Germany.[153] 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 game with one minute of extra time remaining, but Semih Şentürk equalised for Turkey almost immediately. 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.[154] 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.[155]

Euro 2012[edit]

In the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, Modrić scored three goals, against Kazakhstan,[156] Andorra[157] and Ukraine;[158] matching Ivica Olić, Ivan Rakitić and Eduardo da Silva. 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,[159] Modrić started in all three of Croatia group stage matches against Republic of Ireland, Italy and Spain, but the team failed to progress. His most notable performance was against Spain; he led the team game and manager Bilić relied un Modrić to resist Spain's football quality on the pitch. The most memorable moment of the game came when Modrić picked the ball on the halfway line skipping Spain's midfield trio, rushing down on the right to reach penalty area where he evaded a defender, and crossed from 18 yd (16 m) to Ivan Rakitić, but Iker Casillas saved the goal of this attempt.[160][161] Because Croatia did not pass the group stage, Modrić was not included in the Team of the Tournament, but The Telegraph included him in the best eleven until the semi-finals,[162] and his play was well received by the critics.[163][164]

2014 World Cup[edit]

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 game against Brazil, which they lost 3–1,[165] and Modrić sustained a minor foot injury.[166][167] In the second game, Croatia won 0–4 against Cameroon,[168] but did not progress to the knockout stage because they lost 1–3 against Mexico,[169] despite the great expectations from the Croatian public.[170]

Euro 2016[edit]

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,[171] and then he scored a penalty against Azerbaijan.[172] On 3 March 2015, for the first time Modrić served as captain of the national team, in an away draw against Azerbaijan.[173]

In the tournament proper, Modrić scored the game-winning goal in Croatia's opening group-stage match against Turkey, a volley from 25 metres (28 yards).[174] In doing so, he became the first Croatian to score at the finals of two separate European Championships, having previously scored against Austria in the 2008 edition.[175] He was named Man of the Match.[174]

Player profile[edit]

Style of play[edit]

"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[153]

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.[176] He is able to play with both feet and combines this with his swift, offensive positioning off the ball.[177] 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,[178] and his ability to retain possession[39] and set the tempo of the game.[179][180][181] A former attacking midfielder,[182] he is also noted for his passing range and dribbling skills,[183] and is considered as a master of the "pre-assist".[39]

Position[edit]

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.[184] 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.[177][182] According to Jonathan Wilson, in a 4–2–3–1 system Modrić is a third type of a holding midfielder, being neither entirely a destroyer or a creator, 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.[185]

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; in spite of 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 on of the Premier League.[184][186] Already in the 2011–12 season statistically he was among top rated central and all-round midfielders across the top five leagues, alongside players like Xabi Alonso, Andrea Pirlo, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Xavi.[187][188]

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,[189] 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.[190][191] In the first half of the 2013–14 season, during which he formed an effective central midfield partnership with Alonso and Angel di Maria, Modrić made more tackles (56) than any other Real Madrid player in La Liga, with an average number of 2.86 tackles per league game, 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 the league (90%), which was also the highest of any midfielder in Europe's top five leagues who have made five or more assists during the season.[25] 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 game (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 counter attacks.[192][193] Modrić's average passing accuracy during the season was between 91.6–92%, while the highest completion rate he managed in a single match occurred in October against Barcelona when completed 100% of his 42 attempted passes.[194] In whole 2014, Modrić's dribble attempts (75) at a success rate of 76% were second in Europe's top five leagues.[195]

Reception[edit]

Modrić, pictured against Portugal in 2013, has been considered as the most versatile, and crucial player of the national team.

Modrić is regarded as one of most complete and best midfielders in the world.[192][196][197][198][199][200] 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.[201][202]

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".[203] Piksi considered him, along with Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, as the most intelligent player.[203] Predrag Mijatović said Modrić became "Madrid's best player, with Ronaldo".[204] Johan Cruyff said Modrić's quality and influence on the game depend on the freedom he gets.[205] 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".[206] In 2014, Zinedine Zidane included Modrić in his best XI currently playing the game.[207] In 2017, Robert Prosinečki considered Modrić along Šuker as the best Croatian player in the history.[208]

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".[189] 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".[209][210] 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, and fairplay.[211][212][213] 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".[39] Others managers who have praised Modrić's game include Pep Guardiola[214][215] and Sven-Göran Eriksson.[216]

Personal life[edit]

Modrić married Vanja Bosnić in May 2010 in the Croatian capital Zagreb after four years of dating. His teammate at the time, Vedran Ćorluka, was his best man.[217] Their son, Ivano, was born on 6 June 2010.[218][219] On 25 April 2013, their daughter Ema was born.[219][220] Modrić generally lives a quiet family life.[221]

Career statistics[edit]

Club[edit]

As of 17 September 2017
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 3 0 1 0 2 0 6 0
Total 143 8 20 0 57 3 220 11
Career total 404 59 55 4 88 9 547 72

International[edit]

As of 6 September 2017
Croatia national team[28]
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 4 0
Total 99 11

International goals[edit]

As of match played 12 June 2016. Croatia score listed first, score column indicates score after each Modrić goal.[222]
International goals by date, venue, cap, opponent, score, result and competition
No. Date Venue Cap Opponent Score Result Competition
1 16 August 2006 Stadio Armando Picchi, Livorno, Italy 8  Italy 2–0 2–0 Friendly
2 7 October 2006 Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia 10  Andorra 7–0 7–0 UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying
3 7 February 2007 Stadion Kantrida, Rijeka, Croatia 13  Norway 2–0 2–1 Friendly
4 8 June 2008 Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna, Austria 27  Austria 1–0 1–0 UEFA Euro 2008
5 6 September 2008 Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia 30  Kazakhstan 2–0 3–0 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
6 15 October 2008 Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia 33  Andorra 3–0 4–0 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
7 6 June 2009 Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia 35  Ukraine 2–2 2–2 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
8 6 September 2011 Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia 49  Israel 1–1 3–1 UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying
9 9 September 2014 Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia 80  Malta 1–0 2–0 UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying
10 13 October 2014 Stadion Gradski vrt, Osijek, Croatia 82  Azerbaijan 5–0 6–0 UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying
11 12 June 2016 Parc des Princes, Paris, France 91  Turkey 1–0 1–0 UEFA Euro 2016

Honours[edit]

Club[edit]

Dinamo Zagreb[2]
Real Madrid[2]

Individual[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]