Emerging from a war-torn childhood, and on the heels of a career blighted by a criminal case, Luka Modric made his way to the World Cup final this summer. What’s more, he’s capped off a dream season with the FIFA World Player of the Year award on Monday night in Brazil.
Nobody knows much about the Croatian star but one thing is for sure: His struggles have made him a key member of a Croatian football team that saw had an inspirational run at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, losing eventually to France in the title match.
The Croatian War of Independence
It was in the early years during the Croatian war of independence, where Luka along with his Croatian teammates, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic and Dejan Lovren fled their homes. While the teammates had found shelter in central Europe, Modric and his family had to stay in the refugee hotels of Zadar, a small city on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast where the Croatian star was born.
"We were always afraid, that’s what I remember the most. Thousands of grenades, fired from the surrounding hills, fell on the training pitch in those years, and we were always racing to reach the shelter. Football was our escape from reality." - Tomislav Basic, coach at club NK Zadar, told a Canal Plus documentary
When Modric was six years old, his grandfather was murdered by the local Croatian subs, who captured their area in 1991.
"I’ve seen a great deal of hardship in my life. What is the most important is never to give up, never to give in to circumstances, to trust yourself. This was my motive, this is what led me to this point in my life." - Luka Modric, Croatia CaptainHeight Was Never a Setback
Fate, however, has never favoured the Croatian. At 1.72 metres (5 foot 8), Modric’s abilities were doubted early in his career because of his height.
Club chairman Josip Bajlo remembers the six-year-old Modric as "this boy who used to kick the ball around the hotel parking lot all day. He was skinny and really small for his age, but you could see right away that he had that something special in him."
"You don’t have to be a strapping lad to play football." - Luka Modric, Croatia CaptainThe Perjury Case
Modric was charged with perjury in March this year. The Real Madrid midfielder was suspected of making false statements at a tax fraud trial. In June 2017, he made a false statement of joining Tottenham Hotspurs from Dinamo in 2008.
The perjury trial would compel the Croatian to face five years of imprisonment, however, Modric stayed strong enough to deliver on performance on the pitch in the summer.
‘Worst Signing for Los Blancos in 2012’
Luka is mostly known for his exceptional performance at Real Madrid, where his flexible role has helped the Spanish giants to secure numerous titles. But the Real Madrid midfielder has faced much criticisms when the fans were not pleased with his arrival at the Spanish giant.
He was officially named the worst signing by Real Madrid fans in December 2012. While Samir Khedira and Xabi Alonsa were in top form, Luka didn’t stand the chance of making it to the team sheet.
Croatia’s World Cup Run
After overturning his fortunes at the club, having played an instrumental part in Real winning the Champions League title the last four out of five seasons, Modric was the hero the Croatian team needed.
The nation with a population of 4.7 million had pinned their hopes on Modric to win their first-ever World Cup title. And he did everything he could. Modric scored two goals and was crucial to Croatia's three come-from-behind wins in the knockout stages.
However, Croatia lost the final 4-2 to France.
The midfielder was awarded the Golden Ball after being voted as the best player at the FIFA World Cup 2018.
"This is maybe one of the best periods for Luka. He is playing the best football of his life." - Croatia coach, Zlatko Dalic.
The FIFA Player of the Year
On Monday night in London, Luka Modric broke a decade of award dominance by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to be crowned the world footballer of the year by FIFA.
Modric was voted FIFA's best player in the 2017-18 season after winning the Champions League for a fourth time in five seasons with Real Madrid and leading Croatia to its first World Cup final where it lost to France.
Messi and Ronaldo were the only winners of world soccer's main individual award from FIFA in various guises since 2008, both winning five titles each.
After receiving the award, the 33-year-old said he was thankful to all his coaches for getting him to this stage in his career.
"This award is not just mine. It is my teammates from Real Madrid and Croatia. Without my coaches, I would not have won this and without my family I would not be the player I am today," said Modric.
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