Modric does not age: at the age of 36 he plays 40 matches and runs the most.

Modric does not age: at the age of 36 he plays 40 matches and runs the most.

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04 May 2022
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In his youth, Luka was only 30 minutes on the field.

Football in recent years stubbornly pushes the age limits. Lewandowski, 33, nearly won the Ballon d’Or and is now moving to Barcelona. The 34-year-old Benzema will certainly receive this award (unless Messi gives a couple more assists). Thiago Silva, Ronaldo, Chiellini are also still in the top – historically there are a lot of old people who decide something. And we have not yet remembered Zlatan. But even against their background, Luka Modric looks like Gandalf among the hobbits. Luque, 36, is Real Madrid’s oldest player. 21-year-old Rodrigo calls Luka dad and congratulates him on his father’s day, because the Croat is only a year younger than his real dad. The thing is, at 36, Luca plays almost better than in the year when he was given the Ballon d’Or. This season, he has already run 40 matches, more than three thousand minutes (the fifth result at Real Madrid) and gives such assists that fans are begging for an extension of his contract. How is this possible?

Modric has always had problems with athleticism: in childhood they didn’t take anywhere because of thinness, in his youth, stamina was only enough for 30 minutes

For most of Modric’s career, he wasn’t an athlete at all. Born in pre-war Yugoslavia, he contracted bronchitis as a child and was malnourished. The frail kid was rejected by all football schools. “What will this guy give you? He is too bony and weak,” laughed at 10-year-old Luka Ivica Djidic, vice-president of the Bosnian club Zrinjski. The coaches understood that Luka was incredibly technical and smart, but his thinness scared him off. At that time, the Yugoslav players were so cool that the technique and understanding of the game was not enough – athleticism was also needed. “Then they valued strong players, and Modric was light as a leaf,” recalled his children’s coach Miodrag Zadar. In 2001, 15-year-old Modric was taken to Dinamo Zagreb, but at first they didn’t really believe in him either. For two years he was with the youth team, and in 2003 he was given on a one-year loan to the Bosnian Zrinjski. A physically weak guy went to an incredibly tough league, where local thugs in tackles tore off the legs of the attackers. At first, it was very difficult for the young man: it’s hard to believe, but Luka could only last 30 minutes on the field, and then he asked for a replacement and, to the whistle of the stands, trudged to the bench. Modric was given a set of exercises to develop endurance, but Luka abandoned the gym after a month, when he realized that physical activity was not for him. But his trump cards – understanding of the game and technique – he pumped to the maximum and survived on the field due to them. “He was still weak in martial arts, but deftly learned to avoid them,” Zrinjski coach Bogdan Zrechko recalled. Gradually, he adapted to local conditions and asked for a replacement no earlier than the 60th minute. Intelligence helped Modric to get out of the Yugoslav quagmire and launch a career in England. Luka could easily score on physical fitness, go on intelligence and finish at 32-33 years old at Tottenham. But life changed after meeting with Vlatko Vuchetich.

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