The alarms are ringing and Luka Modric is running because soon the bombs are coming. He’s eight years old, wearing full kit and boots, and he has a football under his arm. When he arrives at the underground shelter, the remainder of his team-mates jogging in at the back of him, he has to wait. Now and again minutes, incessantly hours and infrequently overnight, sleeping on the floor and staying until it was once quiet, meaning it was once secure to go out of doors. But Modric still had the ball.
“I used to be with it at all times,” he tells AFP in an exclusive interview. “When I went to the shelter I took it with me and I played with my friends, with everyone. I organised games. It meant everything to me.”
The Croatian War of Independence forced his circle of relatives to leave their home just out of doors Zadar in 1991 but in the Hotel Kolovare, where they lived for seven years, Modric still played.
“I broke such a lot of windows at the hotel and of people’s cars, everyone was once at all times mad at me,” he says. “My father had to pay for it,” he grins. “It was once expensive.”
Football offered an escape. “I bear in mind the fear,” he says. “We played football and the alarms went off. It was once normal.”
Two decades later and still nobody can get the ball off Modric, Real Madrid’s dancing playmaker, who can twist absent from an opponent or wriggle through them, a midfield metronome described by his Croatian team-mate Ivan Rakitic as “one of the crucial best ever in his position”.
Modric writes in his autobiography, ‘My Game’, which came out final month, that he’s calm, obedient and “fears nothing”. He says is “shy but not afraid”.
Asked what his favourite object is to do on a football pitch, he beams, knowing the answer is unforeseen for someone of his size. “Tackle!”
Recognition did not come automatically for the player voted Real Madrid’s worst signing of the season at the end of his first year. He faced criticism coming through the ranks at Dinamo Zagreb too.
“There was once at all times a large number of doubt around me – approximately my quality, my style, my physique,” Modric says. “They said I used to be too weak to make it to the top but it didn’t have an effect on me. It motivated me more.
Topics mentioned in this article