The only member of Slaven Bilić's squad still playing in Croatia, Luka Modrić hopes he can justify comparisons with Johan Cruyff when his side meet the Netherlands.
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The only member of Slaven Bilić's squad still playing in Croatia, Luka Modrić, can justify comparisons with Johan Cruyff when his side meet the Netherlands.
'A great test'
The 22-year-old midfielder has been top of a number of clubs' transfer wish lists for some time, but for the moment is choosing to plough on with NK Dinamo Zagreb. The world will have another chance to savour his skills as Croatia meet fellow UEFA EURO 2008™ contenders the Netherlands in Split. "The match against the Netherlands will not be just an ordinary friendly," said Modrić. "The Netherlands are among the best teams on the world. It will be a great test. They will show us where we stand right now."
Modrić himself looks to be standing on the verge of a magnificent career. One of the three rising stars of the national team, along with left-back Vedran Ćorluka and striker Eduardo da Silva, he is aiming high when he considers his club future. "My goal is to move to bigger club during the summer and into one of the world's best leagues," he said. "I am ready to play in any of the five best leagues, but I am most attracted to Spain, especially [FC] Barcelona. I am honored that they are interested in me."
The Catalan side have been keeping tabs on the midfielder, and scouts will have been struck with his physical resemblance to the great Cruyff – he even wears the Dutchman's favoured No14 with the national team. He was recently gifted a No14 Barça shirt by a group of Spanish journalists who came to Zagreb to interview him. "The journalist from [El Mundo Deportivo] cheered me up with this gift," he said. "When I was in Barcelona with my girlfriend last summer I didn't buy a jersey so I was really pleased to get one now."
According to Modrić, he could have had as many Arsenal FC shirts as he pleased, had he chosen to join Eduardo in moving to London last summer, saying: "Arsène Wenger tried to bring me in at the same time as Eduardo. I was honoured that such a great manager wanted me; a manager famous for his work with young players, but I decided to wait." With UEFA EURO 2008™ to come, he decided to stay put and dream of international success with Croatia. "Some of the biggest names in world football have only the kindest words for the Croatia team," said Modrić. "Given our form in qualifying, we don't need to be afraid of anyone."