Winning his third-straight Champions League and taking Croatia to the World Cup final is the footballing achievement of 2018 and should be rewarded as such in what would be the first time the prize has been awarded to someone whose name is neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo since 2006 when Kaka picked it up.
Modric will not be left wanting in terms of support in Spain where they have been banging the drum for Ronaldo and, in Catalonia, for Messi, for a decade.
Messi only reached his best in La Liga late last season so he can’t be in the running. And Ronaldo is gone from Madrid so there will be a push from the Madrid supporting media to get behind Modric.
Luka Modric has led Croatia to their first-ever World Cup final after their win over England
Modric celebrates with his team-mates after beating England 2-1 in extra-time on Wednesday
Modric poses in a suit at the 2015 Ballon d’Or Gala – a trophy he will be hoping to land this year
Ballon d’Or winners since 2007
2007 – Kaka
2008 – Cristiano Ronaldo
2009 – Lionel Messi
2010 – Lionel Messi
2011 – Lionel Messi
2012 – Lionel Messi
2013 – Cristiano Ronaldo
2014 – Cristiano Ronaldo
2015 – Lionel Messi
2016 – Cristiano Ronaldo
2017 – Cristiano Ronaldo
They might even receive some unexpected support from Barcelona. Modric, after all is the player they probably should have signed in 2013 instead of letting him go to their rivals.
If Modric does win the World Cup he will join an elite group of just eight players who have done the great club and country double before.
In 1974 Sepp Maier, Paul Breitner, Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller and Uli Hoeness won with West Germany having done so with Bayern Munich. In 1998 Christian Karembeu won with Real Madrid and France and in 2002 Roberto Carlos did so with Brazil and Real Madrid.
On Sunday, Raphael Varane could also achieve the double with France and Real Madrid but Modric’s achievement would be greater – Croatia only has around 800 full-professionals and just over four million people to support them.
He won his third straight Champions League with Real Madrid in May as they beat Liverpool
If Modric is crowned the world’s best at the end of the year Ronaldo himself might not mind too much. Few players in the Real Madrid dressing room are as universally respected as the 32-year-old who has powered Croatia forward in three exhausting knockout matches – each time having to come from behind but never doubting it was possible.
Modric is strong of body and mind. ‘I think a lot of the things that happened to me as a child in Croatia have left me feeling like I should never ease up,’ he told El Pais last month.
He never talks about the Balkans conflict but it’s been reported that his grandfather, who he was very close to, was killed in the war and his family fled to Zadar where he lived in a series of hostels before they found a permanent home.
The president of his first-ever club NK Zadar, Josip Bajlo, remembers a kid kicking a ball against the wall of a hostal car park. ‘He was short and skinny for his age but you could see he had something special,’ he said.
Despite his dimunitive frame, the 32-year-old midfielder is strong of body and mind
Fiercely competitive Modric has gone into this tournament believing he could carry Croatia all the way. Asked about his heroes before the tournament started he said: ‘Boban, Croatia’s first captain. He took the armband at a very delicate time for the country because it had just become independent.’
He now carries that responsibility and despite the cloud of an imminent perjury trial hanging over his head no one has been more focused on the here-and-now in Russia.
It’s a big ask for Croatia’s walking wounded to lift themselves after three 120-minute matches and take on a France team, who have players such as Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe who can win the match with a moment’s brilliance.
But he should go on to the pitch on Sunday night knowing that he has already achieved more in 2018 than any other player on the planet and that includes two who have made the Ballon d’Or their own private competition for the last decade.
Lionel Messi (left) and Cristiano Ronaldo (right) have won five Ballon d’Ors each since 2008
Croatia’s No 10 will be hoping to complete his mission in Sunday’s final against France
Author: Nancy Parker
Nancy Parker is a five time Emmy Award winning journalist and seven time Emmy nominee who has spent almost twenty five years covering news in South Louisiana. She has anchored every prime time newscast at WVUE FOX8 during her twenty year tenure in New Orleans.