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From war-torn streets to a World Cup final against France – Modric

UK Sport | Published:

Croatia’s midfield star has overcome many hurdles en route to Sunday’s showpiece.

Tragedy and rejection blighted the early years of Luka Modric, who will be a key figure in Sunday’s World Cup final against France.

Plaudits are increasingly poured on the head of the 32-year-old Modric, who has played an integral role both in Croatia’s rise to global contention and in his club Real Madrid’s historic three-time back-to-back Champions League success.

Such fame and fortune is a far cry from the humble origins of Modric, whose family endured terrible suffering when the Balkan war erupted in 1991 and his tiny home village became targeted by Serbian troops.

Luka Modric
Luka Modric defied tragedy and rejection in his youth (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Modric’s nascent footballing abilities were evident to most who caught a glimpse of the elusive 10-year-old, but not one of the country’s biggest clubs, Hajduk Split, who rejected him after a schoolboy trial due to him being too small and slight.

Modric instead signed for his local club, Zadar, with whom he sought solace as the war continued to rage about them, and as it finally began to ease he was picked up by Dinamo Zagreb’s youth programme at the age of 16 in 2002.

Luka Modric
Luka Modric’s rise to fame began at Dinamo Zagreb (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

Tottenham won the race for the Croatian in 2008, paying a then club record-equalling £16.5m for a player, who nevertheless initially struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League, amid fears his stature would work against him.

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Hampered by a knee injury, and frequently being asked to shift roles as then Spurs manager Juande Ramos sought to cling on to his role, Modric might have struggled, but was clearly not the type to throw in the towel on account of the previous hardships he had endured in his life and career.

Luka Modric
Luka Modric would eventually star at Spurs (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

But it was at Real, whom Modric joined for £30m after a drawn-out transfer saga in 2012, where Modric would put accusations of supposed physical frailty behind him once and for all and emerge as one of the greatest players of his generation.

Ironically, Modric’s ascent to the current pantheon came on the back of a style – rooted in elusiveness and adaptability – that was enhanced rather than hindered by his diminutive presence.

Now he has a  final against France ahead of him and a chance to walk tall as a World Cup winner.

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