Although we are trying to stick the label of future Modrić on all fronts of young Croatian stars, the midfielder who will celebrate his 37th birthday in September can still boast of being the indispensable player of the Croatian selection. Not too worried about his succession, the Vatreni prefer to savor the last remaining years of their number 10, even if it means experiencing a great void, which Mateo Kovačić and Lovro Majer will no doubt have to fill.
“With Luka Modrić, it’s a whole different team” , obviously surrenders to Zlatko Dalić after the snatch draw against France last Monday (1-1). By only evoking it half-wordly, the Croatian coach alludes to the slap received by the Vatreni against Austria (0-3) four days earlier in a meeting in which the local demigod played just 32 minutes. In Split, the Croatian number 10, holder alongside Brozović and Kovačić, celebrates his 150e cape under the checkered jersey. The opportunity for all of Dalmatia, the region where he comes from, to pay yet another tribute to the one who, at the height of his 36 years, is still the master of a team struggling to find him a successor. As kick-off nears, on the streets leading to the Poljud Stadium, it’s hard to get your hands on Slobodna Dalmacija, the local newspaper whose front page pays tribute to Modrić. The name of the Ballon d’Or 2018 is however everywhere, especially on the back of the many jerseys worn by kids and bought on the Split market. Some Hajduk supporters even manage to put aside their resentment towards the former Dinamo Zagreb midfielder and his financial shenanigans with the Mamić siblings, time to celebrate the one who has been winning Croatia for so many years.
“You are our captain, we are yours Luka”
After unfolding a huge tifo on which locals and polyglots can read “You are our captain, we are yours Luka” the 33,000 supporters present at the Poljud stadium start singing “Modric, Modric, Modric” . Strong enough for The Marseillaise intoned at the same time by the tricolor parkage must not stop from the second sentence to make way for the tribute. With their gala midfield, almost entirely made up of thirty-year-olds, the Croats reign in the midfield, so much so that we undoubtedly observe Aurélien Tchouaméni’s first failure with the Blues.
The small dishes in the big ones for the 150th of King Modrić 1st
The exit of Luka Modrić at the 79e minute under a standing ovation seems like the last dance, although his replacement, 19-year-old Luka Sučić, is still far from the level of the Real Madrid player. “I am happy and proud to have been able to achieve this with Croatiacommented the captain at the end of the meeting. I didn’t expect it, but wherever we go, I’m proud and very happy to have done it. » If he also underlines the essential contribution of the youngest in the second half who equalize without him on the ground, the Modrić-dependence resumes with a vengeance in the following match, against Denmark. Overwhelmed by the possession game of Kasper Hjulmand’s men, Croatia must once again rely on their local genius to unblock the situation.
While the central hinge who played for the first time together worked miracles against the eight Danish shots in the first 45 minutes, the local newspaper Vecernji writing : “All those first-half miracles were watched calmly and without nervousness from the bench by those you think you can’t live without: Luka Modrić and Mateo Kovačić. And when they resumed play in the second half, Croatia looked truly untouchable. » The Vatreni, who had only 42% possession in the first period, went to 60% in the second. Similarly, Croatia, which had managed only one shot in 45 minutes, managed to fire eight strikes in the second act, including two on target for a goal, that of the victory (1-0). Luka Modrić is no stranger to this: the Croatian metronome manages more passes (47) than he plays minutes, and his five long balls find teammates. At his side, Mateo Kovačić also unfolds, with 34 successful passes out of as many attempts.
“Luka is the best player in the history of the Balkans, he has already won almost everything, but he continues to be stunning on a daily basis. » Lovro Majer
Kovačić and Majer, the king’s pupils
It is he who finds favor in the eyes of the king, who will one day, for sure, hand over his crown to another Croatian jewel in the midfield. “My successor in Croatia or the most talented player, I think it’s Mateo Kovačićsaid Luka Modrić in an interview for brand at the start of the year. Even if it’s not just talent, he is already an accomplished player. He played for big clubs like Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and now he’s at Chelsea where he’s doing really well. » Also dubbed by his coach, who says he cannot do without his number 8 when he is in great shape, Mateo Kovačić is far from unanimous on the Croatian side.
Too shy when he started with the Vatreni, often injured, and less creative than his idol, he struggles to make people forget the one who is still master of his land, and still depends a lot (too much?) on his exploits. Since it is absolutely necessary to stick labels of future Modrić, Croatia recently turned to another star, from the academy of Dinamo Zagreb, with a style (not only of game) similar: Lovro Majer. Headband tight on his head, between number 8 and number 10, the Stade Rennes midfielder could be the successor Croatia has been desperately waiting for for several years. With one detail: he still hasn’t managed to win the checkered team a match on his own, without a helping hand from his idol, to whom he gave his hand when he was just a kid. from the Dinamo academy.
“Look, I know how to do it too!”
“Luka is the best player in the history of the Balkans, he has already won almost everything, but he continues to be stunning on a daily basiswas astonished in an interview recently granted to SoFoot the one who definitively left Dinamo at the age of 23, like his idol thirteen years earlier. That’s mainly what I watch: he is 36 years old, he arrives every morning motivated as if it were the first training session of his career, he is always 100%. » If, at 36, the Croatian number 10 has no desire to stop, even if it means forcing the young Lovro to go into exile on the right wing to have the right to playing time under the checkered tunic, c This is undoubtedly the best news for a selection that is already struggling to fill some positions left vacant after the 2018 World Cup, and the departures of Mandžukić and Subašić. Also because he represents this generation which knew the first hours of Croatia, and that he is, in this sense, a perfect post-Yugoslavian national hero.
By Anna Carreau, in Split