Luka Modric is the classiest of acts on and off the pitch.
From humble beginnings and an upbringing which coincided with the Croatian War of Independence, the Real Madrid playmaker, at the age of 33, is Los Blancos’ most important player and his country’s darling.
He is now The Best, and rightly so.
FIFA’s elaborate awards bash, which has only been in its infancy since 2016, has the sense of a feel-good PR exercise to feed the glitz and glam appetite for world football. Yet no one could argue with Modric winning the men’s player of the 2017-18 season gong in London on Monday night.
He followed up his man of the match worthy display in last May’s Champions League final against Liverpool, helping Real to a third consecutive triumph in Kiev, by playing a captain’s hand for Croatia in their run to the World Cup final against France.
Those two contributions were without doubt the icing on top of a vintage season which ultimately saw the diminutive creative force win 29.05 per cent of the overall FIFA vote, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (19.08%) and Mohamed Salah (11.23%).
Such recognition has been in short supply for illustrious midfielders over the years, and although there isn’t a debate that two of the best ever, Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, have not deserved their stranglehold over individual prizes for the past decade or so, it is refreshing to see a man from the engine room usurp goalscoring prowess.
The hope for lovers of the purest form of the beautiful game – something which Modric embodies with his graft and poise on the ball – is that ‘The Best’ will now go on to win the Ballon d’Or later this year.
Since 2008, Ronaldo and Messi have shared the most prestigious individual honour, winning five awards apiece, but Modric deservedly has a chance to become the first player other than those two since Kaka in 2008 to triumph.
And it would be welcome, too – regardless of the fact the two players which have dominated are still domineering forces in their own right.
In previous years, ex-Barcelona duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta are the two midfield mainstays of the modern era who are comparable with Modric in terms of ability and status, but neither of those two could break the Ballon d’Or monopoly.
Xavi was third for three consecutive years between 2009 and 2011 while Iniesta was runner-up in 2010 and a bronze medallist in 2012. The latter genius, who now plies his trade with Vissel Kobe in Japan, unluckily missed out on the top honour to former Blaugrana team-mate Messi eight years ago, even after scoring the World Cup final winner for Spain against Holland.
Modric is surely now in a prime position to land the biggest individual prize and end a period of midfielders being overlooked somewhat at the top.
Not that the former Tottenham star is a man who lives for or craves the attention of being the main man, quite the opposite. His acceptance speech – delivered in three different languages – was heartfelt and touched upon his journey from the little known NK Zadar, to Dinamo Zagreb to becoming the star he is today.
He had London’s Royal Festival Hall in the palm of his hands and the footballing community, from all corners of Europe’s top clubs past and present, listened in with the utmost respect.
Modric’s words were spoken in complete control, reminiscent of the way he conducts matches from the centre of the pitch. His nod to boyhood idol Zvonimir Boban, the captain of Croatia’s side which finished third at the 1998 World Cup, was another touching gesture as the gifted AC Milan great broke down in tears watching on in the audience.
Modric is now the one setting a the example and inspiring future generations.
Know more about Sport360 Application