Four defenders are attempting to keep up with him, with another just behind him and two more to his left. It’s a 7-on-1 situation, and none of them can catch him.
He stands on the outskirts of the penalty area, just to the right of a player, but that’s not the ball he wants to play, despite convincing the defence that it is. When everyone else was losing their minds, he saw the pass and played it. Panic followed by chaos, he had taken out seven men with a single flick of his foot.
You might be wondering who I’m referring to as you read this. Who is the craziest player to do this twice in nine seconds? Is the player in his prime? a young talent looking to establish themselves? Let me tell you that it was none other than Real Madrid’s 36-year-old outstanding midfielder Luka Modric who extended his contract this summer.
The entire football community, not just Luka, delighted at the prospect of witnessing another season of his on-field brilliance. Luka will be 37 in September, but he appears to be ageing backwards on the field.
Few players his age have been able to compete at the highest level. Modric, on the other hand, does it for both club and country. There isn’t a single matchday that he doesn’t appear in the lineup, and his absence is evident if he isn’t starting.
Let us take a step back for a moment and consider Luka Modric on a broader scale. For the past decade, football has been the Ronaldo/Messi show. But, at the end of the day, only one player on the planet other than Ronaldo or Messi has won the Ballon d’Or since 2008, and that player’s name is Luka Modric. There aren’t many Ballon d’Or winners among midfielders. When you think about it, that is completely insane. The great Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were dethroned by a Croatian, who led a nation of 4.5 million people to the World Cup Final.
For a midfielder who is a magician with the ball, comparing individual aspects of the player and off-the-ball work is equally important. When it comes to passing range, Luka Modric’s abilities are comparable to those of Xavi and Iniesta.
Modric is a master of passing, whether it’s through balls, trivela passes, aerial balls, or anything else. It’s just that his deeper positioning has limited the frequency of those passes for the majority of his career.
‘Adaptability’ and ‘longevity’ are two other factors to consider when comparing two players. It’s difficult to comment on Xavi and Iniesta’s adaptability because they spent the majority of their careers at Barcelona, where they did play under different managers but their roles didn’t change much. Modric had to play for different clubs in Europe, and even at Real Madrid, he had to play under different managers with different ideologies, and his role was never the same.
If he has another successful season at the world’s biggest club at the age of 37, would he surpass the likes of Xavi-Iniesta in terms of individual aspects, adaptability, and longevity? Could he be in the same discussion as Zinedine Zidane?
Luka Modric joined Real Madrid at the age of 27 and was labelled a flop before even having a chance to prove himself. Mourinho’s words make perfect sense now: “All I ask of the Madridistas is that they be patient with Luka Modric. He is so good that the Santiago Bernabeu will fall in love with him.” Mou was proven right ten years, five UCLs, and numerous other accolades later.
Another fantastic season from Luka Modric could demonstrate that a late start at a top club does not mean you’ve lost much. His legacy would be a prime example of how reaching your peak at a later age can bring you the same glory as reaching it when you were younger.
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One of the main reasons for Luka’s long-term success is his professionalism and discipline, both of which play an important role in his fitness. Future players will look up to him for his work ethic and professionalism.