The curious case of ageless wonder Luka Modric

GRANADA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 21: Luka Modric of Real Madrid celebrates during the La Liga Santander match between Granada CF and Real Madrid CF at Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes on November 21, 2021 in Granada, Spain. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)
GRANADA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 21: Luka Modric of Real Madrid celebrates during the La Liga Santander match between Granada CF and Real Madrid CF at Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes on November 21, 2021 in Granada, Spain. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric, now 36, is not showing signs of slowing down. (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Short of height, long hair, white shirt and an incredible flow of movement – these qualities are enough for anyone to describe the phenomenon that is Luka Modric.

The Croatian playmaker signed with Real Madrid in summer 2012, accumulating numerous trophies and accolades since then with Los Merengues, but his heroics were well-known even before he donned the prestigious white shirt.

He took center stage at the 2012 European Cup, beaming with such confidence and intelligence on the pitch that radiated through to the keen eyes of Florentino Perez and then-Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho.

Success was not long in coming after Modric arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu. In 2014, during current boss Carlo Ancelotti’s first managerial stint with Madrid, the Spanish giant won the prestigious La Decima at Lisbon with a stoppage-time assist off a Modric corner kick that breathed life into Real Madrid thanks to Sergio Ramos’ header. They scored three goals in extra time to ensure a comfortable and historic win over their city rivals Atletico Madrid.

Modric has not looked back since then. He has gone on to win numerous titles, including a Champions League  three-peat and a Ballon d’Or trophy in 2018 to cap his stellar career.

It is 2021 now, but Modric’s game is only improving week after week in the 2021-22 season. His performances against Inter Milan in the final group stage fixture of the Champions League earned Real Madrid a vital 2-0 victory, a special moment for him as he went on the pitch as a captain for the first time in his career.

His swift movements in the tight spaces were noteworthy, coupled with extraordinary passes to teammates in the middle of the park. It is no coincidence that the Ballon d’Or winner claimed the Man of the Match award against Inter.

He dictates the game and sets the rhythm at the centre that sometimes appears to be shaky when he does not start. His outstanding display in the midfield continued in yet another tough La Liga fixture against Atletico.

After a tough initial 15 minutes, Los Blancos found their way back into the game and began dominating possession. Modric was at the heart of Real Madrid’s breathtaking display, as his quick movements on and off the ball along with his trademark off-the-boot passes helped the La Liga leaders secure a dominating 2-0 win at home.

His fluidity in that particular fixture was such that he made Diego Simeone’s important players like Rodrigo De Paul, Koke and Marcos Llorente look like kids. He played his game with confidence and perhaps with an assurance that no one else was his equal on the pitch. Using his short stature, he breezed past every Atletico player even when there was a shortage of space for him to move forward or pass the ball.

Modric is still a key cog in the Real Madrid machine. He assesses the pitch perfectly. He develops a quick connection with teammates, particularly with midfield partners Toni Kroos and Casemiro, who usually sit deep and allow him to move forward with the ball and create chances.

Modric’s numbers are proof of his extraordinary skill, commitment and hard work. In his first complete season at the Bernabeu, he racked up four goals and four assists in all competitions and has not looked back since. In subsequent seasons, he delivered as expected.

His stats indicate he never registered fewer than the 4 assists he recorded in his debut season (2012-2013). Since then, he has produced more goals and assists that might look ordinary to others but have come as a result of his sheer dedication on the pitch in the iconic white shirt. His best scoring season came in the 2019-20 season when he registered a total of 13 G/A in all competitions (5 goals, 8 assists).

This season he already has 5 assists in all competitions, although he is yet to find a goal. With half of the season remaining, it will not be surprising if he adds outstanding figures by the end of this campaign.

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At an age when most professional soccer players start declining or hanging up their boots, this Croatian midfielder expressed his desire to play at the new Bernabeu stadium next year, with his wish likely to get fulfilled by the Real Madrid board. And rightly so. By the way, he is 36!