Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez and PSG’s own Qatari-owned owner Nasser Al Khelaifi have both been in the news recently, but it is Luka Modric who remains at the center of everything.
The “luka modric” is still Real Madrid’s most important player, even at 36. Just ask PSG. The Croatian midfielder has been instrumental in the club’s success this season and he will be a key figure for them next year as well.
11:30 a.m. Eastern Time
Sid Lowe is a writer from Spain.
Even if you stop the tape, you won’t be able to see the pass. But again, neither are you, nor anybody else, Luka Modric, Real Madrid’s seasoned midfield wizard.
It isn’t actually feasible to press pause. Modric is on the outside of the D, just outside the penalty area. Rodrygo is only to his right, but it’s not the ball he wants to play… despite the fact that he makes the defense believe it is. He’s attempting to contact Karim Benzema. The problem is that there are six blue shirts standing between him and his target, with a seventh lurking close. Examine the area and draw a line with your finger. Please take your time. I’m afraid I can’t see it.
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Play the video once more. Oh, yes, that’s it. Through the legs of Presnel Kimpembe. In the midst of it all, when you can’t ask everyone to just stand still for a minute while you figure it out, when everyone around you is losing their minds, Modric spotted the pass and played it. Then there’s chaos. He had knocked out seven soldiers with a single flip of his foot.
Modric has also done it previously. It was nine seconds ago.
It’s hard enough to freeze the frame. Imagine performing it in real time after running 80 yards. It’s not simply the final pass; it’s also the first pass. It’s all about it.
Modric won the ball just outside his own team’s penalty area on Wednesday, and he passed it on from just outside Paris Saint-on Germain’s the way to Real Madrid’s second goal. The sight when he dashes between Neymar and Lionel Messi, leaving them behind initially, has a ludicrous quality to it. As though they’re the starting gate for a race, with everyone sprinting in the same direction. Modric has four blue shirts attempting to stay up with him, one right behind him and two more to his left. It’s a 7-on-1 situation, and no one can grab him.
Modric understands that this implies that someone, somewhere, is alone. It’s merely a matter of arithmetic. He sends Vinicius Junior to the left, bypassing everyone who had been attracted to him. Presnel Kimpembe’s legs are open as the ball passes past him, and Madrid is off. Vinicius and Modric both sprint, eager to re-enter the fray. The distances are 40, 50, and 60 meters. When the Brazilian applies the brakes, he returns it to Modric, who is surrounded by PSG’s swiftly retreating players, who have taken up defensive positions once again.
It’s happening again, poor Kimpembe. Playing Benzema onside is a nightmare for Achraf Hakimi. Madrid’s No. 9 is on his own. That ball, though, should not be getting through to him.
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Glenn Hoddle, who was commentating the game on British television, summed it up perfectly, expressing his amazement in the simplicity of what he says: “That was fantastic, wannit?” “That nutmeg pass is simply wonderful,” he continues.
Hoddle understands vision, touch, and brilliance when it comes to passing and sprinting with the ball. Take a short detour while you’re watching Modric videos on YouTube — what better way to spend the day, but maybe lower the volume down — and check some of them up. To put it another way: Old Tottenham Hotspur player Ossie Ardiles couldn’t think of a better way to describe Modric than to compare him to his former colleague Hoddle on the day he wanted to emphasize how excellent he believed he was.
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One first-division player confesses to intentionally colliding with him to throw him off his game. Modric didn’t even flinch in the slightest. Look at his calves: they’re like a pair of cannon balls bursting through his flesh.
There have been internal and external conversations about how to handle him, with the proposal that he be rotated, rested, and safeguarded in tiny doses. He didn’t agree; all he wanted to do was play. What if he was a little older? He needed consistency, and he was having much too much fun to sit out.
Modric, like everyone else, exudes goodwill and makes an effort, and he is all about the team, the game itself: He is a guy who “never permits himself a single act of demagoguery” and “doesn’t feel the attraction of populism,” in the words of Jorge Valdano.
According to Valdano: “He doesn’t do things that aren’t doable. You watch a pass he makes and say to yourself, “That’s what I would have done.”” After that, sure. Once he has shown it to us. And the ball on Wednesday was the epitome of this. Valdano goes on to say: “And we shouldn’t believe it [that’s the pass I’d go for]. In reality, Modric is the only one who can accomplish what he does. When the ball passes by his feet, the game moves forward as if it were a piece of cake.”
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That’s all. Also, please do so.
At the end of the day, it’s all about how you feel. And for all of the footage of Modric on the pitch on Wednesday, for all of the things he did — 69 passes, 100 dribbles, that spell when Madrid suddenly smelled blood and he was everywhere, driving them on — for all of the things you can marvel over him finding a way through that you can’t even see with the tape paused, perhaps the best moments came as he walked off the pitch after his side had eliminated PSG 3-1 from the Champions League.
When he cuddles Ancelotti, his eyes shut and his face is covered with a large, loving, joyful grin. He clutches Modric tightly, as if he’ll never let go. The expression says it all: “I adore you.”
How can Luka Modric maintain such a high level of energy? pic.twitter.com/mInDYI8UKc
— March 10, 2022, The Spanish Football Podcast (@tsf podcast)
Then there’s his team’s excursion, that voyage within. You may have already seen this, but it’s worth watching again and again. When you get to the conclusion, it’s difficult not to be affected by this film, which says so much and explains so much.
Modric dashes into the tunnel, yelling and leaping about like a little child. He pounces on David Alaba. Eder Militao gets a pat on the back from him. He hugs Vinicius, their heads touching and their eyes connecting. “F—-ing wonderful,” he says Rodrygo, “it needs to be like this all the time.” “Kroos!” he exclaims. He assures Nacho, whose every muscle screams, “It doesn’t hurt; it doesn’t hurt at all!” Dani Carvajal’s head is kissed by him.
He walks throughout the whole dressing room, approaching each and every one of them. The staff is waiting in the back: kit guys, staff, and physios. “Luki!” they exclaim as they jump about. “Amazing!” he exclaims in English to Federico Valverde. He re-finds Benzema and embraces him. Finally, he slumps onto the bench, his head in his hands, his face hidden behind his hands, tired.
He says, “As this.”
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