Real Madrid and Croatia playmaker Luka Modric is not tall. He is not muscular. He is not a showman and he is not a player with a flamboyant lifestyle.
When he scores he “struggles” to celebrate as if suggesting that, “it’s no big deal after all, others have scored more fantastic goals”.
But for his sublime performance waived around his delectable footworks and skills Modric is hardly noticed on the pitch. He doesn’t shout at his teammate over errors or failure to give him a quick goal-bound pass. He doesn’t complain nor quarrel. He is not a player with robust tackles who often earns bookings or marching orders. He is very unassuming.
Modric is silent on the pitch yet he delivers maximumly. Despite playing in a star-studded club like Real Madrid, his style and skills shoot him out of the shadows of bigger name players like Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale, Marcelo, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. No one dwarfs Modric. What he can’t do in showmanship he does with his peculiar nature and style. He is tricky, quick and cunning. He is a ball holder, a great passer, a space creator, an assist specialist and a scorer of goals. Call him a complete footballer and you won’t be wrong.
His diminutive nature which makes him unnoticeable on the pitch is often blown away each time he glides to cover every blade of grass on the pitch. His fragile look is deceptive as he often turns opponents inside out with deadly yet divine dribbles. These make him run the midfield of club and country almost effortlessly yet gloriously. He plays as if he doesn’t break a sweat, yet, he is a workaholic.
When he dribbles an opponent, he leaves him on the turf with regret because he would have made him look like an amateur. When he assists, he gives his teammates 90% assurance of burying the chances. When he passes the ball, it is with graceful delight and when he scores it is always a class act.
His performance in 2017/18 season has fetched him the UEFA Best Player award. This however came after he delighted the world in Russia thus, dragging his country to a World Cup final with runners up medal. He was graceful in that tournament to justifiably win the Most Valuable Player award. He commanded his troop well. He assisted the attack in scoring goals. He scored a couple himself. He was indeed a true captain leading his army to a successful war in Russia.
Having won the MVP at the World Cup and UEFA MVP for 2017/18 season, the next big thing for Modric is the Balon d’Or.
Certainly he has the potential to win it. What he has achieved so far are just stepping stones to propel him for the biggest one. The Balon d’Or has been the property of two players in the last 10 years. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have both shared the honour in the last decade thus, making other great players of their era including Modric look very ordinary if not common.
Andreas Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Frank Lampard, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Paul Scholes, Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery, Steven Gerrard and Neymar are few of the players who watched helplessly as Ronaldo and Messi ruled the world by winning the Balon d’Or for 10 years.
Perhaps, Modric is set to turn the table and break the jinx of Cris and Leo’s domination of the Balon d’Or award. Yes, Modric is already setting his eyes on retirement in the next few seasons but what a honour will it be for him to win this coveted award.
Winning the award could spring up a new order in club football talking about individual performance of players and honours.
It is very likely Modric wins it if he could use his talismanic prowess help the Galacticos go a remarkable distance in the UCL and perhaps excel in La Liga.
By Desmond Ekwueme