Luka Modric: The Only Other Ballon d’Or Winner of the Decade

Luka Modric is number 3 in 90min’s Top 20 Greatest Footballers of the Decade series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next week.

One second.

100 milliseconds.

The blink of an eye.

These are the temporal metrics within which the greatest football players of all time become, well, the greatest football players of all time.

The time within which headlines are written, trophies are won, and legends are born.

As in just one second, a player can shimmy the ball onto his left foot and curl it into the top corner of the net. In just 100 milliseconds, a player can rise highest from a corner kick to head the ball past a hapless goalkeeper. And in the blink of an eye, a player can rifle a free kick from the edge of the box, over a wall, and into the top corner. 


So, in other simpler words, in just one second, 100 milliseconds, the blink of an eye (whichever metric you prefer), a goal can be scored. And goals are important, because, you know, goals win games and winning games means you win trophies…and you know all of this already so I’ll just move on.

The players who excel in these seconds, milliseconds, blinks of eyes are, therefore, the most valuable in world football. They populate every ‘greatest footballers of the [insert timeframe here]’ list written by every sad sod that’s sad enough to write one of those types of articles (e.g. me). They are the most fondly remembered footballers of all time.

But, perhaps rather than being the ‘most fondly remembered footballers of all time’, they are just the easiest to remember…? 

For the players that have historically excelled in the aforementioned seconds, milliseconds and blinks of the eye are the players with their names strewn across every football related Wikipedia page – having broken a million and one goalscoring records by scoring (roughly) a million and one goals. 

They are the players with their best bits collated for YouTube compilations, with the ‘drops’ in David Guetta’s ‘songs’ accentuating every ball being cannoned into the net. 

Lionel Messi

They are the players who have a new stat tweeted by OptaJoe every time they score a goal. 

‘Enumerate’ (‘f*** off’). 

They’re pretty much inescapable. 

On every Twitter feed. On every Facebook homepage (if anyone still uses that?). In every football boot advertisement that Nike and adidas have ever made. 

For this reason, Luka Modric is somewhat of an anomaly in any list of the greatest footballers of the year, or decade, ever. 

Luka Modric

As, unlike Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, ​Luis Suarez or even ​Sergio Ramos – a player whose defining career moment is scoring a last minute equaliser in the 2014 UEFA Champions League final – Modric hasn’t made a career out of popping up at the most opportune moment to score the most important goal.

The Croatian midfielder isn’t one of the ‘easiest’ footballers to remember; for he does all of his best work in the more forgettable passages of games. 

Rather than being the protagonist in the only fleeting unforgettable moment of a game, Modric is usually the protagonist of the other, forgettable, 92 minutes and 59 seconds. 

At Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid and Croatia, the diminutive midfielder left the headline grabbing moments for the Gareth Bale’s, Cristiano Ronaldo’s and even Mario Mandzukic’s of the world, instead doing everything in his power to ensure that moment – that one game-defining moment – falls to his team, and not the opposition. 

Koke,David Villa,Luka Modric

It was exactly what he did in the 2014 Champions League final, in which Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale scored the decisive goals, and Modric did literally everything else. 

Out-muscling, out-working, out-maneuvering a four-man Atletico Madrid midfield basically on his own (he played alongside Angel Di Maria – a winger – and a not-fully fit Sami Khedira on that day), the Croatian laid the foundations upon which Real Madrid mounted the attacks which would subsequently lead to the four goals which would win La Decima (and breathe). 

He did the same, albeit with a lot more help, in the 2016, 2017, 2018 Champions League finals. All finals after which Ronaldo and Bale were lauded for their goals, while Modric’s vital contributions somewhat faded into the background – vaguely mentioned in a sidebar column in a national newspaper once the Bale and Ronaldo well had dried up. 

Indeed for most of the decade, that’s what Modric did. 

He faded into the background, forever in the shadow of the supposedly superior talents that scored more goals than he ever could. 

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia"France v Croatia"

It would take a quite astonishing turn at the 2018 FIFA World Cup for Luka Modric to finally be receive the plaudits he had long deserved.

In June and July of 2018, Modric would drag an unfancied Croatia side to the final of the tournament, putting in man of the match performance after man of the match performance along the way – even scoring the odd goal too. 

While the Croatian captain would still shy away from the limelight slightly, with Mario Mandzukic scoring the famous winner in the semi final, and Ivan Rakitic scoring the decisive penalties in the previous two rounds, it would be Modric who would finally get the credit. 

Perhaps due to the fact that football was not hidden behind a paywall for two months (has been back behind the paywall since) and people were able to watch full games as opposed to illegal YouTube highlight reels, the world was finally able to sit up and take notice of Modric’s talents. 

Millions around the world were finally able to see, not just the second, 100 milliseconds or blink of the eye moments in which CR7 and Messi shine in, but the other 92 minutes and 59 seconds in which Modric shines. 

And as such, Modric was finally – rightfully – heralded as the best in the world. 

The long overdue accolades would follow. 

Luka Modric

The former Tottenham man would win the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, UEFA Men’s Player of the Year and become the only player other than Messi and Ronaldo to win the Ballon d’Or this decade. 

Indeed, Modric was more than deserving of these awards. As after a decade in the shadow of goalscorers, the little Croatian midfielder had finally stolen the limelight, and proved that he is one of the very best of all time. 

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Number 20 – Arjen Robben: The Flying Dutchman Who Became a Modern Legend at Bayern Munich

Number 19 – Mohamed Salah: The Humble King Who Conquered Rome and Took Liverpool By Storm

Number 18 – Sergio Aguero: The Man Who Painted Manchester Blue With One Kick of a Football

Number 17 – Manuel Neuer: The Bayern Munich & Germany Legend Who Revolutionised Goalkeeping

Number 16 – Eden Hazard: The Brilliant Belgian Who Mesmerised Fans Across the World

Number 15 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic: The Man Who Needs No Introduction

Number 14 – Toni Kroos: The Underrated Jahrhunderttalent Who Was There for the Biggest Occasions

Number 13 – Giorgio Chiellini: The Juventus Legend Who Has Always Found a Way to Win

Number 12 – Marcelo: From Favela Kickabouts Under Grandad’s Watch to 4 Champions League Wins

Number 11 – Robert Lewandowski: Bayern Munich’s Best Foreign Player & Europe’s Most Underrated Star in History

Number 10 – Neymar Jr: Brazil’s Generational Talent Who Dictated the Greatest Champions League Night in History

Number 9 – Gareth Bale: The Cursed Talent Who Went on to Conquer Europe Four Times

Number 8 – Dani Alves: The Maverick Who’s Just Too Good to Be Copied

Number 7 – Franck Ribery: The Serial Entertainer Who Was Born to Win

Number 6 – Luis Suarez: The Uruguayan Heel Who Never Bit Off More Than He Could Chew

Number 5 – Andrés Iniesta: The Enigmatic Architect Behind the Best Barcelona Team in Modern History

​Number 4 – Sergio Ramos: Football’s Big Bad Who Has Dominated the Sport Like No Other


The Best XI of Players Who Are Out of Contract in 2020

​We’ve all seen how expensive transfers can be these days. It can take ludicrous fees to sign players, but that just makes the free agency market even more exciting.

Every year, we see a whole host of players who find themselves out of contract, some of whom can be considered as some of the world’s elite. Teams get the chance to grab themselves a bargain and lure they away for free, and 2020 will likely be no exception.

Here’s a look at the best XI of players who will be out of contract next summer.

Goalkeeper & Defenders

Tottenham Hotspur v Bayern Munchen: Group B - UEFA Champions League

Alexander Nübel (GK) – ​Schalke starlet Nübel has quickly established himself as one of the most exciting young goalkeepers around. However, the race for his signature might already be over as ​Bayern Munich are thought to be ​ready to swoop.

Thomas Meunier (RB) – Paris Saint-Germain man Meunier has long cut an unsettled figure in France. The Belgian hasn’t always found minutes easy to come by, so the chance to be a regular starter could be all it takes for Meunier to make a move.

Toby Alderweireld (CB) – The drama surrounding Alderweireld never ends. Tottenham triggered the automatic extension in his contract, but he seems destined to just leave next summer instead. As one of the Premier League‘s finest, surely there will be plenty of interest in Alderweireld.

Stefan Savić (CB) – Alderweireld’s teammate Jan Vertonghen is also out of contract in the summer, but ​Atlético​ Madrid man Savic just pips him to the spot in this XI. Savic is four years younger and a core part of an Atlético side which is known to be one of the strongest defensive units around.

Layvin Kurzawa (LB) – Another PSG full-back, Kurzawa is not the player he used to be but, at 27 years old, any interested side could still get plenty of solid years out of the Frenchman.


Luka Modric

Willian (RM) – One of the more polarising figures in this lineup, ​Willian remains a dangerous winger, despite being 31 years old. However, his inconsistency has left several ​Chelsea fans wanting more over the years, so next summer could be time to go.

Luka Modrić (CM) – The 2018 Ballon d’Or winner has endured a challenging few seasons with ​Real Madrid, but ​Modric remains one of the finest passers around. At 34, this may be the last chance he gets to earn himself a big move.

Christian Eriksen (CM) – ​Eriksen’s contract situation has dominated headlines for what feels like an eternity. It seems just a matter of time before he walks away from Spurs, so this drawn-out saga looks to be coming to an end. 

Ryan Fraser (LM) – Fraser was one the Premier League’s top performers last season as he racked up a stunning 14 assists for ​Bournemouth. If you’re looking for a creative, tricky winger, then Fraser could be the man for the job.



Edinson Cavani (ST) – With the arrival of ​Mauro Icardi, it seems like PSG are getting ready to say goodbye to ​Cavani. As one of the finest pure finishers around, there aren’t many teams who would say no to him.

Dries Mertens (ST) – ​Mertens’ contract situation has been a dark cloud over ​Napoli’s season. The 32-year-old is seemingly hesitant to commit his future to the club, and an intriguing offer from overseas could see Mertens leave ​Serie A next summer.


When & Where to Watch Real Madrid’s Players During the October International Break

​Despite talk of a crisis at Real Madrid, with the team having only picked up one point from their opening two Champions League group games, Los Blancos are top of La Liga by two points heading into the latest international break.

However, Zinedine Zidane will have to prepare his side for their next game against Real Mallorca without 12 first team regulars as they go off to represent their respective countries this week.

Here is a rundown of how you can see these 12 players in action across the globe.

Sergio Ramos & Dani Carvajal (Spain)

Dani Carvajal,Sergio Ramos

Although he is now 33, Ramos remains an integral part of Madrid’s side, and has been one of their more consistent performers in the early stages of the season.

Carvajal has been less impressive, but still retains the faith of Zidane. Both will be expected to start for Spain in their upcoming games as they travel to Scandinavia to play Norway and Sweden.

​Game ​Date/Time ​TV Channel/Live Stream
​Norway vs Spain ​Saturday, Oct 12 (19:45) ​Sky Sports Football
​Sweden vs Spain ​Tuesday, Oct 15 (19:45) ​Sky Sports Premier League

Raphael Varane & Alphonse Areola (France)

Raphael Varane

He may only be 26, but Varane is now a senior figure in the France side, and someone that Didier Deschamps fully trusts. 

This international break could also give Areola a rare opportunity. He has played second fiddle to Hugo Lloris for some time, but with the Tottenham goalkeeper now ruled out until 2020 due to injury, it could be Areola’s time to shine. 

France still have some work to do in their group, as they are currently level on points with Turkey and three ahead of Iceland. They face both of those teams over the next week.

Game ​Date/Time TV Channel/Live Stream
​Iceland vs France ​Friday, Oct 11 (19:45) Sky Sports Football​
​France vs Turkey ​Monday, Oct 14 (19:45) Sky Sports Mix/Sky Sports Football

Eden Hazard & Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)

Eden Hazard

Hazard is yet to shine for Madrid following his summer move from Chelsea. He is still getting up to speed following a hamstring injury that he suffered in pre-season.

Meanwhile, Courtois has had problems of his own. A dip in form has meant that his place in the side has come into question with Areola being a more than capable replacement.

Yet the pair remain important players for the current number one ranked international side in the world. ​They are coasting towards Euro 2020, and should not face much of a challenge to their supremacy this week when they take on San Marino and Kazakhstan.

Game ​Date/Time ​TV Channel/Live Stream
​Belgium vs San Marino ​Thursday, Oct 10 (19:45) ​Sky Sports Football (Red Button)
​Kazakhstan vs Belgium ​Sunday, Oct 13 (14:00) ​Sky Sports Main Event

Casemiro & Eder Militao (Brazil)


The 2019 Copa America champions will be travelling to Singapore this week for two friendlies against Senegal and Nigeria. 

Unsurprisingly, Casemiro has made the squad, whilst Militao has also got a call-up despite his lack of game time at club level.

Game ​Date/Time ​TV Channel/Live Stream
​Brazil vs Senegal ​Thursday, Oct 10 (13:00) ​LFC TV
Brazil vs Nigeria ​Sunday, Oct 13 (13:00) ​Not in UK

Luka Modric (Croatia) 

Luka Modric

The 2018 Ballon d’Or winner has had a quieter 2019, but is still a vital player for his national team.

Croatia will need him to be close to his best this week, ​as they face a testing pair of fixtures. With four teams still realistically capable of qualifying out of Group E for Euro 2020, Croatia meet two of their rivals for a place at next year’s tournament as they host Hungary before travelling to Wales.

Game ​Date/Time ​TV Channel/Live Stream
​Croatia vs Hungary ​Thursday, Oct 10 (19:45) ​Sky Sports Football (Red Button)
​Wales vs Croatia ​Sunday, Oct 13 (19:45) ​Sky Sports Football/Sky Sports Main Event

Gareth Bale (Wales)

Gareth Bale

The Welsh winger may not be enjoying his time at Madrid under Zidane, but he is still his country’s star player. 

Wales are currently fourth in their group, and face a potentially defining week as they aim to make up ground and qualify for their second successive European Championships. 

First up is a tricky trip to Slovakia, before they return to home soil to take on Croatia.

​Game Date/Time​ ​TV Channel/Live Stream
​Slovakia vs Wales ​Thursday, Oct 10 (19:45) ​Sky Sports Premier League
​Wales vs Croatia ​Sunday, Oct 13 (19:45) ​Sky Sports Football/Sky Sports Main Event

Fede Valverde (Uruguay)

Fede Valverde

Valverde has started three of Madrid’s last four games, thus rightfully earning another call-up to the Uruguayan national team.

The South American side are just in friendly action, as they will be playing Peru twice in the space of four days.

Game ​Date/Time TV Channel/Live Stream
​Uruguay vs Peru ​Saturday, Oct 12 (00:00) ​Not in UK
​Peru vs Uruguay ​Wednesday, Oct 16 (02:30) ​Not in UK

Rodrygo (Brazil Olympic Team)


Ahead of next year’s Olympics in Tokyo, Brazil’s Olympic team will play two friendly fixtures over the next week as part of their preparation. 

Having joined Madrid over the summer, 18-year-old ​Rodrygo is still finding his feet at the club and has only made the matchday squad sporadically.

He will be expected to get more game time here though as Brazil take on Venezuela and Japan.

Game ​Date/Time TV Channel/Live Stream
​Brazil Olympic Team vs Venezuela  ​Friday, Oct 11 (02:30) ​Not in UK
​Brazil Olympic Team vs Japan ​Monday, Oct 14 (21:00) ​Not in UK