The story of Luka Modric is complex, but he has overcome many significant obstacles in his lifetime and became the world’s best player for 2017/18after securing the Best FIFA Men’s Player.
The son of a goat herder, Modric was a child of war; a refugee during the persecution by the Serbs who murdered his grandfather; a child who wore wooden shinpads and always had a ball at his feet; and his journey took him from his birthplace of Zadar through Bosnia, Zeprenic, Zagreb, London and Madrid.
Modric was recognised in a documentary by Pavle Balenovic which filmed wolves in Jasenice in Croatia between 1989 and 1990, and the filmmaker was the one who shared the documentary excerpt, later aired by the BBC, and claims that the Croatia football captain is one of the protagonists of the story.
Later came the return from the countryside to Zadar as the family fled the Serbs, first living at the Kolovare hotel and then the Hotel Iz until they could find a home. Unsurprisingly, Modric does not like to remember these times and instead remembers the memories of him playing with a football and being with his family.
If the 33-year-old misses someone tonight, it will be his first coach and his father in sports, Tomislav Basic, who died in 2014 when Modric was already in Real Madrid, who allowed him to go to the funeral; the individual who forged the Balkan mentality in the playmaker, laying the first stones on the road that would take the Croat to the top of world football.
Modric remembers all his advice, but also Basic’s requirements.
“I went to Hajduk Split to do a trial without Basic knowing, who was the director of Zadar at that time,” said Modric.
“There they told me that it was early and that I had to come back.
“Where? To Zadar.
“And he said to me: “If you are not good for Hajduk, you are not good for Zadar. You cannot train with us.”
After a while, Basic believed that he had punished young Luka enough and asked him to return.
“I spent a few weeks like this [not training with Zadar],” Modric continued.
“And in this time, he told me to hang my arms off of a bar to see if I could grow… it was his concept.
“After two or three months, he told my father that I could return.”
The Real Madrid midfielder grew up dreaming of becoming as good as his idol, Zvonimir Boban who played for AC Milan, but the 49-year-old, who is the right-hand man of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, knows that Luka has surpassed him.
Today in London, Modric was accompanied by his wife Vanja, an indispensable figure in his career, and his two children, the eldest of which has seen the most special footballing moments of his career.
If only his children could see just how far their father had come.