Real Madrid's Luka Modric tops midfield rankings after brilliant World Cup display

Aditya Devavrat 14:37 20/07/2018
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Luka Modric: the World Cup's best player.

There are times in football when a player hits such heights that they don’t so much own a moment as completely transcend it. That was Luka Modric at this World Cup.

The Croatia midfielder’s performance this summer was a dream unfolding in reality: a brilliant player sprinkling the perfect blend of class, elegance, and genius on the world’s biggest stage to lead his side upon a glorious run to the final.

This tournament saw quite a few midfielders treat the world to displays of the utmost excellent, but no one did it quite like Modric, the man who tops our World Cup rankings for central midfielders. Have a look at our top five.

1. Luka Modric, Croatia

This was Luka Modric’s World Cup. That he ended up on the losing side in the final was equal parts heartbreaking and inconsequential – Croatia weren’t even supposed to be there. But they were, simply because, every time they played, Modric was everywhere, doing everything.

The Real Madrid midfielder delivered a masterclass in how one player can control a game. His passing, vision, and ability to keep hold of the ball were of a trademark high quality, and he added a stunning, signature goal against Argentina. But what was equally outstanding was that, at 32, he ran a greater distance than any other player. Winning the Golden Ball was just reward.

Argentina v Croatia: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

2. Paul Pogba, France

Here’s Paul Pogba‘s World Cup story: going from getting booed by his own fans at a pre-tournament friendly to grabbing a goal and an assist in the final. Along the way, Pogba grew into the player his talent had always promised, controlling France’s midfield and setting the tempo whether they were in attack or defence.

For a player who has been so criticised by the pundits and fans, this was a stunning riposte.

France v Croatia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final

3. N’Golo Kante, France

That Pogba was able to be so effective and brilliant owed much to the player stationed alongside him. It’s been a remarkable rise for N’Golo Kante, going from France’s lower divisions to winning the World Cup in just five short years.

Kante was excellent in just about every game he played, but he’ll be remembered for his performance against Argentina in the round of 16, when he neutralised the threat of Lionel Messi. There aren’t many players who can say that.

France v Argentina: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

4. Ivan Rakitic, Croatia

Modric took all the plaudits – including from Ivan Rakitic himself – but the Barcelona midfielder’s influence for Croatia cannot be understated. He was nearly as good as Modric, which, this summer, is the highest praise a player can get.

His goal against Argentina will live long in the memory, as will his contributions to Croatia’s two straight penalty shootout wins: it was Rakitic who scored the winner both times.

Russia v Croatia: Quarter Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

5. Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium

Fresh off leading Manchester City to a dominant Premier League title triumph, the World Cup was another stage for Kevin De Bruyne to strut his stuff. He wasn’t quite as spectacular as he’d been during the domestic season, and he was outshone by compatriots Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, but he was nonetheless a classy presence in midfield.

And he did have his spectacular moment – the long-range strike against Brazil will go down as one of the biggest goals in Belgium’s history.

Brazil v Belgium: Quarter Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

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