Luka Modric is one of the best midfielders of this generation, perhaps of all history. But the Croatian Ballon d’Or winner had a very unconventional adolescence. Check out 10 interesting facts you may not have known about him.
War and growing up in a refugee camp
When the Croatia and Real Madrid star was just six years old, Serbian gunmen murdered his beloved grandfather and he was forced to live as a refugee in his war-torn homeland.
But on 8 December 1991, violent Serbian militias stormed Modrići, a small village in northern Dalmatia near the Velebit mountains, terrorising Croatian families who had not yet fled. One of those caught in the crossfire was Luka Modrić Sr., who was walking with his cattle down a deserted street when he was surrounded by the Serb gang.
“I was six years old. Those were really hard times. I remember them vividly, but it’s not something you want to remember or think about,” the Croat said.
After this event, his parents were forced to leave Modrići and settled in the Iz Hotel in Zadar. Little Luka and his sister Jasmina had to contend with the sound of shells and gunfire every day, while avoiding mines that could be buried around every corner because there was no electricity or running water.
But that didn’t stop the young man from kicking a small punctured soccer ball in the motel parking lot while dreaming of one day being able to escape his war-torn life.
Kovacic’s son’s godfather
Mateo Kovačić and his wife Izabel christened their son Ivan in July 2021, when he was nine months old, and named Luka Modric as his godfather.
The Croatian footballers struck up a great relationship in Madrid, with the current Chelsea midfielder playing for Real from 2015-2018.
Record number of Footballer of the Year awards in Croatia
Between 2007 and 2022, the legendary midfielder won the Croatian Footballer of the Year award a record eleven times.
Most minutes at the 2018 World Cup
Modrić played every minute at the 2018 World Cup, where Croatia reached the final. He accumulated 694 minutes and became the player with the most minutes in the entire tournament.
Instead of Real Madrid Barcelona?
Modrić gradually became one of the best young midfielders in Europe during his time at Dinamo Zagreb.
In 2008, Barcelona were intensely interested in the Croatian international. In an interview with Spanish daily Mundo Deportivo, he even spoke about how he would love to play for Barça.
Tottenham Hotspur, however, managed to sign the then twenty-two-year-old because the interest of the Catalans was not so hot. In 2012, he transferred to Real Madrid and the rest, as they say, is history.
The worst transfer of La Liga
Spanish newspaper MARCA voted Modric the worst transfer in La Liga in the 2012 summer transfer window, ahead of Alex Song, who moved to Barcelona.
Modrić received 32.2% of the votes as he failed to force his way into the first team, where Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil have cemented their place.
“Give it time and Santiago Bernabéu will love Modric.” And he was right.
While Modric spent six memorable years with Cristiano Ronaldo in Real Madrid colours, his idol in the early days of professional football was Brazilian Ronaldo Il Fenomeno.
His first pads, which he used in the Bosnian league, bore the image of the Brazilian Ronaldo.
14 in honour of Cruyff
Spurs signed Modric in 2008 for a then-record £16.5m, matching the amount paid for Darrent Bent in 2007. The Croatian international chose the number 14 in honour of legendary Dutch midfielder Cruyff.
“It’s a huge honour for me to be compared to Cruyff, ” the Croatian said after winning the Ballon d’Or in 2018.
“He was an incredible player and a great coach. At Tottenham I wore number 14 in his honour and because number 10 was not available,” he added.
Zidane predicted the Ballon d’Or
“When Zidane took over as Real Madrid coach in January 2016, he called me into his office one day after training and explained what he saw in me as a player and what he expected from me,” the Croatian said after winning the Ballon d’Or in 2018.
“He told me that I was an important player for him. First of all, he told me that he sees me as a player who could win the Ballon d’Or.
“When someone like Zidane says that, with his personality and background, it gives you a confidence boost, ” Modric revealed.
Robert Matteoni, a renowned Croatian-Italian sports writer, co-authored Modric’s autobiography Moja igra (My Game), which will be published in the second half of 2019.
In the autobiography, much emphasis was placed on the growth of Modric’s football career, his childhood growing up in wartime conditions and other key themes such as family and friends.
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