While Real Madrid and Manchester City earned a high-quality 1-1 draw in Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg, the best quality moment was provided by evergreen Luka Modric.
You know, the kind of moment where the only appropriate reaction is a puff across the cheeks, a shake of the head, and an exclamation of disbelief.
If you think back to the 2006 World Cup, where the world seemed brighter and more optimistic, you’d be forgiven for overlooking a young midfielder who made two substitute appearances during his international first-round exit.
If you clicked on this piece and got this low, we won’t insult your intelligence by pointing out exactly who it was. More surprisingly, Modric is still producing moments of soul-warming skill nearly 17 years after its introduction to a global audience.
Despite the presence of Aurelian Tchouameni and the imminent arrival of Jude Bellingham, the Croatian’s inclusion in the starting eleven to face City was inevitable.
Dictating the game, like a withered conductor helping to wring another tune out of his orchestra, Modric spent an increasingly wetter 90 minutes probing City’s midfield.
But, while Kevin de Bruyne scored a brilliant equalizer and Ilkay Gundogan marshalled his troops with all the nervous energy of a Somme NCO, it was Modric whose aura shone above all others.
And no wonder; with the game in the second half, the 37-year-old stuck out a limb and killed an errant pass. We’re almost surprised that both sets of players didn’t pause proceedings to applaud the sorcery they’d just witnessed.
Can we just talk about Luka Modric’s first touch for a minute… 😍#RMAMCI | #UCL
— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) May 9, 2023
As the pleasant encounter whizzed by, Modric continued to look like football’s Benjamin Button as he glided across the pitch.
His contract with Real Madrid technically expires at the end of the current season. If someone can offer a good deal and act fast, there’s an elite all-round midfielder available for less than a sweet penny.
But, in all likelihood, he will probably sign a one-year extension at the Bernabeu, as he did last year. With Real Madrid building the kind of midfield that makes you question the point of trying to compete with them, it’s encouraging to know that Modric retains enough compliments to stay on point.
“We want to play a complete game, to give the best we have,” Carlo Ancelotti said before the match, confirming that Modric would start.
“The decisive stage will be over there. We want to get ahead. We want to play well. It’s not just about the result, but how we play and whether we avoid problems. It will be very challenging.”
Ancelotti was as wise as ever; the match pattern suggests City will be marginal favorites when the two juggernauts meet in Manchester next Wednesday.
But, with Modric in the kind of god form that truly takes your breath away and confirms the existence of God, Madrid will play their chances at another European crown.
By Michael Lee
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