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Luka Modrić: In a legendary league of his own

An ode to Luka Modric before his second successive FIFA World Cup semi-final.

Croatia v Brazil: Quarter Final - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Maja Hitij - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Fans and ultras can sometimes take strange measures to annoy opponent players. One of those measures is attempting to sabotage the sleep of opponents’ players by lighting up fireworks near their hotel during European away games. Real Madrid has been targeted like this before, once notably in Paris. Imagine trying to disrupt the focus of Luka Modric — a man who has run from one place to another amidst real mortar shells — with fireworks bought from the local grocery store.

Luka Modric’s club career is more decorated than most players that have ever graced this game. He is a five-time Champions League winner, a unicorn with physical tenacity, durability, and footballing skill that is exclusive to himself only. At 37, people become commentators, managers, ambassadors, or bench players if they are lucky. Luka Modric, at 37, knocked out the favorites of the FIFA World Cup 2022, Brazil, in what was yet another signature Luka Modric performance.

That’s not even the first time he pulls these tricks out of his hat. Modric wrote the greatest story in Croatian football history in 2018 when he took an undergdog squad all the way to the final. Four years later, he is almost there again, in yet another unthinkable World Cup campaign. Croatia’s approach may seem undesirable to some, but like Modric, the team has been relentless and uncompromising in their grind to be where they are.

No player at the FIFA World Cup 2022 has more progressive passes than Luka Modric. No player still left in the world has more passes into the final third. He is fourth on the list of players with more tackles and interceptions in this tournament. He is also fourth on the list for loose balls recovered. At 37, that’s not normal for a guy who is also a starter for the biggest club in the world.

Whether destiny has a path for Luka Modric that coincides with a World Cup trophy or not is still unknown. Luka Modric’s greatness, however, is beyond such doubt. He is unquestionably the greatest-ever midfielder in Real Madrid’s history. For a club like Real Madrid, also unique in every aspect of the game just like Modric, having the best players of almost any generation is sheer normalcy. But Modric stands out even at this club. His position as Croatia’s greatest-ever footballer is also beyond debate.

Regardless of the result against Argentina in the semi-finals of the World Cup, Luka Modric has already created an unparalleled legacy of longevity, self-improvement, and preservation of health for athletes of all age groups. He is an icon to look up to for both club and country. His career already is an inspiration to remain for generations to come. He is a leader on and off the pitch which many of his counterparts were not while they were active footballers.

Modric never backed down from a challenge and he did it all with the grace of his outside-of-the-boot masterclasses. If the semi-final of the World Cup 2022 is Modric’s last dance in international football, then it’s been an honor. And if it’s not, we march on and continue to enjoy his greatness.

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