At the age of 37, Croatia star Luka Modric is proving that age is no barrier in football, as he continues to win trophy after trophy and is leading his country on yet another magical World Cup run.
Not only is he a legend for his club Real Madrid, but he has also become a talismanic figure for his country and has become the player with the most all-time appearances for the European nation with 160 caps.
Year after year people wait for his performances to drop, but he continues to roll on and is still one of the best midfielders in the world, capable of carrying both club and country on his back.
The Sporting News runs down everything you need to know about a legend of the game.
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Luka Modric signed his most recent contract extension in June this year in the aftermath of yet another UEFA Champions League triumph.
It was a small extension, just for one year until June 2023, but it also saw a slight increase in his salary to £278,000 per week, and a yearly salary of just over £14,400,000 (that’s roughly US$330,000 per week and over US$17.6 million per year).
The deal will see him extend his stay in the Spanish capital to an 11th season. Given his advanced age, there is a very high chance he will end his career at the Spanish giants, and will surely go down as one of their most legendary players.
After having some success in the country of his birth with Dinamo Zagreb, Modric has won every trophy there is to win while at Real Madrid.
He has won the UEFA Champions League a staggering five times (never losing a final in which he has played), as well as three Spanish championships.
He was also incredibly close to winning the World Cup with Croatia, as he led them on a fairytale run to the final in 2018, but they eventually came unstuck against a Kylian Mbappe-inspired France in the final.
Modric has also won a plethora of individual awards, including the Golden Ball award for best player at the 2018 World Cup, whilst also becoming in 2018 the first player other than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Ballon d’Or and FIFA Men’s Player of the Year awards. He also won the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award also in 2018.
Luka Modrić. World class.#UCL pic.twitter.com/hq7F5lJEm6
Modric began his career at Croatian giant Dinamo Zagreb; after being rejected from his local club Hajduk Split for being too small, he instead joined their fiercest rivals and became part of a team that won a horde of silverware whilst Modric was still a teenager.
After making 128 appearances and scoring 32 goals, he joined Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in 2008, where he quickly became a key cog in the starting midfield as well as one of the most exciting Premier League youngsters.
He helped carry Spurs back to the Champions League and on a run to the quarterfinals where they were eliminated by Real Madrid. His performances began to earn attention from Europe’s biggest clubs, and it was indeed Real Madrid who secured his signature in 2012 when they paid £30 million for his services. He spent four seasons at Tottenham, making 160 appearances and scoring 16 goals.
His first season in Madrid was a disaster, as he was voted the worst transfer of the season by Spanish newspaper Marca as Real Madrid failed to perform to expectations. However, a position change from attacking midfield to a deeper role saw him cement his place in the side and eventually flourish in Spain, as the silverware began to flow.
He was part of the side that won Real Madrid’s record 10th Champions League title (four more followed after that), and he has also won the La Liga three times, including in the last two seasons.
He is Madrid’s most important midfielder and is capable of changing games by himself even when his team looks out of it, and despite the high change at Real Madrid over the years, he has remained a constant in such a top quality side, having made 454 appearances to date and scoring 54 goals.
2018 was his peak year, winning the league and European titles, as well as winning the Ballon d’Or and FIFA and UEFA Men’s player of the year awards.
He has a similar leading role with his country, having been a consistent presence since breaking into the side in 2006 in a friendly match against Argentina.
He traveled to Germany for that year’s World Cup, and came off the bench twice as Croatia failed to make it out of the group stages. It was under Slaven Bilic in the Euro 2008 campaign where he started to shine for his country, winning a man of the match award as Croatia made it to the quarterfinals before being defeated by Turkey on penalties.
He continued to be one of Croatia’s key players despite their failure to qualify for the World Cup in 2010. He was one of their top performers at an unsuccessful Euro 2012 campaign, being named by many papers as part of the team of the tournament.
They returned to the World Cup in 2014, where they were in Group A with hosts Brazil, but they were disappointing as they failed to progress again as Modric was hampered by injury. He had a resurgence at Euro 2016, scoring an amazing goal against Turkey in the opening match to give his side a victory. He missed his side’s win over Spain that saw them top the group, returning for their round of 16 loss to Portugal.
His finest hour would come at the 2018 World Cup, though, where he would be the player of the tournament as Croatia embarked on a magical run all the way to the final, defeating Argentina, hosts Russia as well as England along the way. Although they would fall in the final, he and his country earned admiration in the eyes of the world, and Modric’s performances of two goals, one assist and high running and chance creation stats also helped him win many major player of the year awards.
At Euro 2020, he scored a classy goal in a 3-1 win over Scotland that secured their progression to the knockout rounds, though they were defeated by Spain in the round of 16.
🇭🇷 Luka Modrić = Croatia’s youngest AND oldest EURO goalscorer 👏
⚽️ EURO 2008 vs Austria (22y, 273d)
⚽️ EURO 2020 vs Scotland (35y, 286d)#EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/XufVodNCVi
Modric is reported to have a net worth of US$75 million, which includes a house in Madrid worth 12 million Euros.
He also has a sponsorship deal with Nike, becoming one of their main ambassadors and wearing their boots and other equipment when he plays matches for club and country. He is also a brand ambassador for Croatian sport stats company SofaScore, and online betting platform Olybet.
Modric was born September 9, 1985, in the city of Zadar, which was then part of Yugoslavia. His parents, Stipe Modric and Radojka Dopuđ initially worked in a knitwear factory near where they lived, however the Croatian War of Independence forced them to flee their homes. Despite the turmoil, Modric began playing football in the parking lots of the hotels they lived in as refugees.
Modric married partner of four years Vanja Bosnic in a private ceremony in May 2010, and a year later in a church. The couple has three children: son Ivano who was born June 6, 2010, first daughter Ema born April 25, 2013, and youngest daughter Sofia born October 2, 2017. Modric generally keeps a low profile outside of football and does his best to keep his family away from the spotlight.
He is the cousin of Australian football legend Mark Viduka, and also the godfather of teammate Mateo Kovacic’s son Ivan.