Football: Undervalued Modric finally getting his due

Luka Modric is not a headline-maker, but he is often the most influential on the way the team play.
Luka Modric is not a headline-maker, but he is often the most influential on the way the team play.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID • Dejan Lovren was probably right in saying that if Luka Modric had played for Spain or Germany, he might have won a Ballon d'Or by now - nobody other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo has for 10 years.

While Modric is in the mix for this year's Fifa Best Men's Player, it validates Lovren's theory that his first nomination is due to Croatia's run to the World Cup final.

The Liverpool defender said: "Because we are a smaller country, he gets less attention than he deserves."

The Golden Ball winner was not the only one to excel for Croatia in Russia but he was their inspiration. Success on the international stage has been as rare for Modric as it has been free-flowing for his club.

One LaLiga title and four Champions League trophies for Real Madrid hardly points to a player undersold by his achievements, but there was also something in what club-mate and Spain captain Sergio Ramos said on Saturday.

"Maybe there are players with more marketing, with a bigger name," he opined. "But Modric deserves that (Fifa) award."

Modric is not a headline-maker like Gareth Bale, Isco or former club-mate Ronaldo, but he is often the most influential on the way the team play.

Although he has never scored more than three goals in a single league season for Real, he was the only player to combine exceeding 50 shots (55) with more than 50 successful dribbles (73) and more than 200 recoveries last term.

The Croatia captain, who turned 33 on Sunday, also posted the most attempted passes (484), most touches (624) and most recoveries (56) of any player at the World Cup.

And when his country face Spain in Elche today, they will meet a side still plugging the gap left by their own pass master in the recently retired Andres Iniesta.

"It's a great challenge to play against Luka in the Spanish league and it's even better to play with him for our country," Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic said.

"Hopefully, we will get to enjoy him a little bit more."

The footballing world should savour it while it lasts.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2018, with the headline 'Undervalued Modric finally getting his due'. Print Edition | Subscribe