What: Modrić’s debut
When: August 29th 2012
Who: Against Barcelona
Where: Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid
Score: Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona
Goals: 1-0 (Gonzalo Higuaín, min 11), 2-0 (Cristiano Ronaldo, min 19), 2-1 (Lionel Messi, min 45)
Real Madrid line-up: Iker Casillas; Álvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira; Ángel Di María (José Callejón, min 79), Mesut Özil (Luka Modrić, min 83), Cristiano Ronaldo; Gonzalo Higuaín (Karim Benzema, min 82)
Coach: José Mourinho
Ten minutes. One trophy. That was Luka Modrić’s Real Madrid debut.
After a summer transfer saga, Real Madrid eventually managed to sign Modrić from Tottenham on Monday August 27th 2012. Just two days later, on the night of Wednesday August 29th 2012, he made his debut for the club by coming on as a substitute in a Clásico. In the 83rd minute of the Spanish Supercup second leg at home to Barcelona, the Croatia international replaced Mesut Özil and played the final seven minutes plus the three minutes of stoppage time.
When he entered the fray, Real Madrid held a 2-1 lead on the night to make it 4-4 on aggregate. They were winning on away goals. It was a very strange tie, as Real Madrid had been excellent in the second leg, yet they’d needed several Barça mistakes to actually put the ball in the net. At the very end of the first leg, Víctor Valdés miscontrolled a ball to allow Ángel Di María to nip in and to score one to make it just a 3-2 Catalan win instead of a 3-1 win.
Then, in the first 20 minutes of the second leg, two hopeful punts forward from José Mourinho’s Real Madrid led to two goals. First, Javier Mascherano failed to control a bouncing ball and allowed his international teammate Gonzalo Higuaín to score. Then, Gerard Piqué did likewise and let his former Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo in for another. Valdés really could have done better on both strikes, yet the goalkeeper’s saves in the rest of the match and Lionel Messi’s freekick just before half time meant that the 10-man visitors at the Bernabéu – who’d lost Adriano for a straight red in the first half – were just one goal away from winning the first trophy of the season.
With seven minutes of normal time remaining, Mourinho decided to bring on Modrić and it was a wise decision. He only had a few minutes on the pitch, but the midfielder made an impact. His grace on the ball was clear to see from his short spell on the pitch, as his passing was crisp and his armpits were as dry as sandpaper even when the famous press of Tito Vilanova’s Barcelona tried to catch him out.
Barcelona actually seemed to be targeting Modrić, as if he were the weak link alongside Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira, yet the Croatian was unfazed and found the right pass time after time. Modrić even created a few chances during his brief runout, setting up Álvaro Arbeloa inside the area on one occasion, only for the right-back to fail to make the most of it.
There was even an effort from Modrić himself, as the new arrival took a shot during a move that he himself started. This was in the first minute of stoppage time as Barcelona were seeking the goal that would change everything and the ball found its way to Xavi, as it so often did. Yet there was Modrić, making a slide tackle on Barça’s midfield maestro to win back possession and, after the ball was recycled down the right flank, it came back to him inside the area and he got off a shot that was blocked by Alex Song, also making his debut after his own transfer from North London.
All in all, there really wasn’t supposed to be much time for Modrić to show what he could do. Yet he grasped those seven minutes and made a significant contribution as Real Madrid saw out that victory, earning a trophy after just seven minutes of normal time and three minutes of stoppage time.
His 2012/13 season had several speedbumps along the way and it did take a few years for the midfielder’s talents to be properly appreciated in the Spanish capital, but he hardly put a foot wrong on his opening night. And he finished it be lifting a trophy, the first of the 16 he has won with the club.