You cannot not give the man of the match award to the player who had just scored a hat-trick and destroyed PSG within a span of 30 minutes on one emotional night at the Bernabeu. Karim Benzema (quite rightly) got his award on the night. But there was another man in white who probably deserved the same recognition: Luka Modric. At 36, he carried Real Madrid’s midfield with an ailing CM partner in Toni Kroos who clearly was not 100%. But Modric was everywhere, and Modric was everything in this game.
Real Madrid’s starting midfield consisted of Kroos, Modric, and Fede Valverde. Kroos, in theory, was supposed to be the single-pivot but early in the game, for a brief period, Real Madrid approached PSG’s half with a sort of a double pivot with Modric and Kroos behind Valverde. This was not the worst idea. Valverde’s pace was essential in Madrid’s early pressing.
However, PSG slowly grew into the game during the first half, and Madrid was forced to take the foot off the gas. Modric, however, was working a double shift. He would slot into the quarterback role at times to bring the ball out and within moments he could also be seen trying to thread an attack with Vinicius Jr and Benzema on the other end of the pitch. This is great for any midfielder. But this was beyond remarkable for a guy who is 36 and had a long season.
Modric’s passing was more like a regular day at the office. He had no right to blitz through the entire PSG squad and make a pinpoint through ball to Vini Jr which led to Madrid’s second goal. Modric then got the ball back, nutmegged Presnel Kimpembe, and found Benzema who was surrounded by blue shirts.
Modric’s defensive work, especially to torment Lionel Messi, was yet another testament to his greatness, yet again on a big night. In the 74th minute, when the Croatian captain floored fellow Ballon D’or winner Leo Messi, the Bernabeu erupted. Even before that, he was winning the ball in key areas and was beating the likes of Achraf Hakimi in duels.
Luka Modric at 36 still bossing the midfield in one of the most physically draining games of the season.— Luka (@ftlukaaa) March 10, 2022
Luka Modric did a lot more than just the stats he produced in this game. His inherent leadership, nurturing qualities for the youth were significant and evident in the post-game celebrations. Modric is at the twilight of his career and still performing at a level that belongs to only very, very special players. As long as he is around, take it all in and enjoy every moment. There will never be another Luka Modric.