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.
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.
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).
For the players that have historically excelled in the aforementioned seconds, milliseconds and blinks of the eye are
For this reason, Luka Modric is somewhat of an anomaly in any list of the greatest footballers of the year, or decade, ever.
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.
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-
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.
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.
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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