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How brilliant is Madrid and Croatia's Luka Modrić?

A Ballon d'Or and five-time UEFA Champions League winner, evergreen midfielder Luka Modrić remains as important as ever for club and country.

Watch great Luka Modrić goals for Croatia

Luka Modrić has won the Ballon d'Or, lifted the UEFA Champions League on five occasions and become Croatia's most capped player of all time – but the 37-year-old midfielder is not done yet.

Having captained the Vatreni to consecutive FIFA World Cup semi-finals, Modrić almost helped Croatia to a first major trophy in the final of the 2023 UEFA Nations League.

UEFA.com runs you through the milestones of Modrić's remarkable career to date.

What they say

"I'll continue to start Modrić even after he's 40. He won't retire until he has my permission to retire. As long as he is breathing with a pulse, he's going to start for me. I'll use him like a bar of soap until there's nothing left of him."
Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid coach

"Luka always has a solution [in his head] and sees what other players don't see. He finds himself in goalscoring opportunities and can also play in a more advanced role, so I believe you cannot find a single flaw in Luka's game and the way he plays. You can only praise him. He's footballing perfection."
Zlatko Dalić, Croatia coach

"There is no way of looking at it in which [Modrić] doesn't deserve the title of the best [Croatian] in history."
Robert Prosinečki, former Croatia forward

Luka Modrić with Carlo Ancelotti and Karim Benzema at Madrid
Luka Modrić with Carlo Ancelotti and Karim Benzema at Madrid©Getty Images

"I always preferred to have him on my team. It's difficult to stop him because he's an amazing player. When we became good friends I admired him even more. [He's] a great person [and] a great player."
Mateo Kovacić, Croatia midfielder

"I see him as the most intelligent player in the world! I remember him from Dinamo. I was watching a game at the Maksimir and saw a little guy in blue playing just the way I used to. The creativity that he showed on the pitch then was amazing. I did not make a mistake, but it was hard to miss."
Dragan Stojković, former Yugoslavia midfielder

"[Modrić and Andres Iniesta] are from a different planet and they came to play football with us mortals here. Both of them are among the best players ever in their positions. If I created a football team, I would have both of them. I thank God that I get to play with both of them."
Ivan Rakitić, Sevilla and Croatia midfielder

Modrić's current tally

International: 166 appearances, 24 goals
UEFA club competition: 147 appearances, 14 goals
Domestic competition: 623 appearances, 81 goals

Modrić's claims to fame

Modrić making his name with Dinamo
Modrić making his name with Dinamo©Getty Images

Dinamo Zagreb
• Having been passed over by Dinamo's arch-rivals Hajduk Split, Modrić bloomed with local club Zadar, where coach Tomislav Bašić helped mould him. "[His family] didn't have money to buy Luka shirts or shinpads, so I made him some wooden ones," Bašić remembered, though the player later refuted this, saying his first shinpads "had a picture of [Brazil's] Ronaldo on them".

• He was Player of the Season in Bosnia and Herzegovina when he was just 18. Loaned out after signing for Dinamo, Modrić toughened up by playing for Zrinjski and was the star of their 2003/04 campaign.

• He was Croatia's young player of the year in 2004/05 after starring on loan at Inter Zaprešić; his side finished second in the table, with Dinamo down in seventh. He returned to Zagreb to sign a ten-year contract, helping his side win three successive titles (and two Croatian Cups) in the next three campaigns.

Modrić: a superstar in waiting at Spurs
Modrić: a superstar in waiting at Spurs©Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur
• Barcelona, Chelsea and Arsenal showed an interest in Modrić before Spurs boss Juande Ramos made the midfielder his first summer signing of 2008. Initially played out of position, he was criticised for his lack of physical clout, but shone when redeployed to central midfield under Harry Redknapp.

• Playing alongside future Real Madrid team-mate Gareth Bale, Modrić helped Spurs reach the UEFA Champions League and become a real force in English football. However, he did not win any trophies in north London. "I've spoken to Luka about this," Bale said later. "We were there or thereabouts to win the league and we kind of just dipped at the end. When you look at the team we had at the time, we feel that we should have won something."

Real Madrid
• Signed in the summer of 2012 after Spurs had resisted selling him to Chelsea, Modrić was not an instant success: a vote on Marca's website had him as the worst signing of the year.

• José Mourinho perhaps never saw the best of him, but successive Madrid coaches were grateful for the Portuguese's decision to sign him. "Modrić is one of my boys," said Mourinho. "When I bought him to Real Madrid, the Spanish press was saying that we bought the worst player in Real Madrid's history; he is not at all the worst player in Real Madrid's history."

• Was UEFA Men's Player of the Year for 2017/18, edging out former club-mate Cristiano Ronaldo – who was gracious in defeat. "Cristiano sent me a message, congratulated me and told me he is happy for me and I deserved it," Modrić said. He received the equivalent award from FIFA a few days later.

Modrić kisses an old friend
Modrić kisses an old friendAFP via Getty Images

• After an underwhelming 2018/19 campaign at club level, Modrić helped Madrid secure the league and cup double the following season. He scored his 100th career goal in a 3-1 Supercopa semi-final victory over Valencia.

• In October 2020, he became the fourth Madrid player aged 35 and above (after Alfredo Di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás and Francisco Gento) to score a UEFA Champions League goal, netting in a 3-2 group stage defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk.

• The personal milestones continued into 2021/22, when he appeared in his 400th game for Madrid and made his 100th appearance in the Champions League. His opening goal in the final of the 2022 Supercopa made him the oldest-ever scorer in the competition. A third La Liga title was followed by a fifth Champions League crown – equalling Ronaldo's record.

• The 2022/23 season saw Modrić become the eighth Madrid player with 100 Champions League outings to his name. He overtook Darijo Srna as the Croatian player with the most appearances in UEFA club competition after playing in Madrid's Champions League semi-final second-leg defeat to Manchester City.

The winner of the 2018 FIFA Golden Ball
The winner of the 2018 FIFA Golden Ball©Getty Images

• Handed his senior debut in a 3-2 friendly win against Argentina in March 2006, the 'Croatian Cruyff' has played at four FIFA World Cups (2006, 2014, 2018 and 2022) as well as the last four EUROs. In Qatar last year, he became the first player to appear in a World Cup and a EURO in three different decades.

• Won the Golden Ball after steering Croatia to their first major final at the 2018 World Cuo in Russia. Modrić came back to Zadar with team-mates Šime Vrsaljko, Danijel Subašić and Dominik Livaković to celebrate their silver medal in front of a huge crowd. The local hero said: "This is the most beautiful thing we could expect, and now I'm having a holiday. I don't have any plans right now – just a holiday."

• At EURO 2020, Modrić became Croatia's oldest goalscorer at a European Championship finals after scoring in a 3-1 last-16 victory over Scotland. He remains the Vatreni's youngest-ever marksman at the tournament after registering at EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland.

• Captained Croatia to a second consecutive World Cup semi-final. Zlatko Dalić's side were beaten 3-0 by Argentina in the last four but overcame Morocco 2-1 to clinch third place, with Modrić claiming FIFA's Bronze Ball award.

• Modrić became Croatia's oldest-ever player – aged 37 years and 197 days – in a EURO 2024 qualifier against Wales, surpassing Dražen Ladić's record set in 1999.

• Named Croatia's player of the year for a record-extending 11th time in January 2023, five more than former Dinamo and Madrid star Davor Súker.

• Led his country to the final of the 2022/23 Nations League, where they were only denied a first title on penalties by Spain.

What you might not know

Modrić takes to the pitch with his children
Modrić takes to the pitch with his children©Getty Images

• Modrić was born in a tiny village called Modrići to parents who worked in a knitwear factory, though he was forced to move to the city of Zadar during the Yugoslav Wars, during which his grandfather – another Luka Modrić – was killed. Ahead of the 2018 World Cup final, video footage emerged of the five-year-old Modrić shepherding goats in Croatia's Velebit mountains.

• His family lived in Hotel Kolovare for several years, where Modrić learned his football skills, despite bombs falling on Zadar. "He played all day long and broke more windows than the bomb explosions," remembered one receptionist.

• He is married (to Vanja) and has three children (son Ivano and daughters Ema and Sofia), and really does relish a quiet life, preferring a trip to the zoo with his family to nightclubbing. His closest friends are mostly from back in Croatia, and according to some reports, he spends all his holidays back in Zadar.

• Gladiator is one of his favourite films. "I've watched Gladiator a lot of times," he said ahead of the second leg of Spurs' 2010/11 Champions League quarter-final decider against Madrid. "I won't watch it again tonight as I'll be watching Manchester United versus Chelsea, but we need to show a big spirit tomorrow – a fighting spirit like in that movie."

• For a long time after Ronaldo's departure for Juventus, replica Modrić shirts were reportedly the biggest sellers in the Real Madrid club shop.

What he says

Modrić meeting David Beckham
Modrić meeting David Beckham©UEFA.com

"I have never doubted myself, even if others did. I always believed I could get to where I am today and thank God this came true. You don't have to be a giant to play football. I'm happy with where I am. I am happy with where I am and I never cared what anyone else said, it only further motivated me."

"I don't think any club is like [Real Madrid]. They ask so much from you and that forces you to always be at the top of your game. The pressure is huge here. But I've never had a problem with pressure, I like pressure, pressure pushes me to be better."

"Maybe I have still not taken in what have I accomplished, what I actually did, but maybe it will come to me one day. I just keep trying to be better and better."

"If I am somebody's idol because of my accomplishments in football, that's fantastic, I am proud of that. But you won't hear me talking myself up; that's for other people to say."

What he might achieve yet

Modrić celebrates Croatia's Nations League triumph over the Netherlands
Modrić celebrates Croatia's Nations League triumph over the Netherlands©AFP/Getty Images

• One more Champions League crown would put him level with another Madrid record holder, Gento – the only player to win Europe's top club competition six times.

• Win silverware with Croatia. World Cup and UEFA Nations League final defeats have left the Vatreni still searching for that first major trophy.

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