Around this time four years ago Luka Modric was being linked with a move away from Real Madrid. He intended to leave, according to reports in Spain, with Inter offering the Croatian a “seductive” deal.
Inter liked what they saw at the 2018 World Cup and had hoped Modric would be their player by the time he would eventually collect the Ballon d’Or later that year, a feat which ended the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly.
However, after careful consideration, Modric stayed in Madrid, a timely boost for the club who brought in head coach Julen Lopetegui but lost talisman Cristiano Ronaldo that summer.
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Fast forward to the current day and Modric is nearing his 10-year anniversary at the club, and despite the fact his contract runs out at the end of the season, reports suggest Real want the 36-year-old to sign another one-year extension.
It is clear to see why. In his 10th season at Real, it is fair to say Modric is as important as ever, or at least his influence on the side has not diminished. A near ever-present in the Champions League, Modric has also started 19 times in La Liga this term, only missing out due to minor injury issues and a bout of Covid in December.
Since then he has been central to their ever-tightening grip on the league title, particularly on Saturday when he inspired their turnaround against Real Sociedad – assisting the first for Eduardo Camavinga before curling in a sublime second.
Modric is yet another athlete defying Father Time. He has already spoken of his desire to play into his forties, with his focus on physical conditioning a reason behind his longevity.
Of course, it also helps when you have Casemiro and Toni Kroos alongside you in midfield, a trio arguably unparalleled in world football.
“For me it's a pleasure to play alongside Kroos and Modric,” Casemiro said after the 4-1 win over Sociedad. “They’re both great players who I really enjoy playing with.
“It's all about how they look after themselves, how they train and work, and we still have a lot left to enjoy from Modric because he's a great player.”
Next, Real must live to fight another day in the Champions League without Casemiro, who is suspended for Wednesday’s last-16 second leg match against PSG.
With Kroos also an injury concern, that puts the onus on Modric, who as the elder statesman of the group – he is the oldest member of the squad by two years, with Karim Benzema second-oldest at 34 – knows better than to fret over absentees given the pressure there will be on their replacements.
“Casemiro’s absence is a shame because we all know exactly what he brings to our system, but we’ve got other players who are capable of performing well, such as [Fede] Valverde and Camavinga,” Modric said on Tuesday.
“I hope that Kroos is involved and I’ll have to do just what I always do and give that little bit extra to cover the job that Casemiro does as he won’t be involved. We're all going to have to give a bit more, particularly on the defensive side of the game. I'm certain that whoever plays will go out and perform well.”
Real are out to overturn a 1-0 deficit against PSG, and Modric will be leaned on for his experience and expertise in their bid to avoid an early exit. He knows what it takes to win the Champions League, four times in all, and knows that their opponent’s desperation could work in their favour.
“There is big pressure on both teams,” he added. “Both of us want to get through. They’re keen to win the Champions League and are yet to have done so, which speaks volumes of just how tough it is.
“We won it four times in five years and made it look easy and as if it was normal, but that's far from being the case. There's a lot at stake for both teams. We're both great sides. We’re the best club in the history of the game and are always under pressure, no matter what the competition, because we always want to win.”
Modric is more than capable of dictating the match and making it another European night to forget for PSG, and given Real’s form and Karim Benzema leading the attack, there is every reason to believe this tie is 50-50 despite the one-goal disadvantage.
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