Modric, the patriarch in his sentimental refuge | Eurocup Germany 2024

When Luka Modric entered his room in the camp in Croatia two days after celebrating their sixth European Cup through the streets of Madrid, they had a surprise ready for him: the Champions League anthem started playing and his teammates emerged from behind the curtains to hug him. The footballer is revered in the national team, with which he played 175 times. He never thought about hanging up his checked shirt to concentrate on his club. With them he was a finalist at the World Cup in Russia in 2018, third at the World Cup in Qatar in 2022; and finalist of the Nations that Spain won last year.

His enthusiasm for Croatia is incombustible. The next day the federation published two photos of him in the gym He had arrived at his sentimental refuge.

He came from a complex path: except in 2014/15, When he missed six months due to two injuries, he had never played less, just 2,249 minutes. “People who say players are happy when they don't play are lying. “I can't say I was happy,” he said in an interview with Cope in late May.

Just a week after the Wembley final he started again. With Croatia. And he scored from a penalty. The friendly preparation for the European Championship, where he makes his debut against Spain this afternoon (6 p.m., La1), brought about a loving reunion that underlines his endless hunger for football's hotspots. He faced Cristiano, who turned 39 in February. Since December 2022, he has played for Saudi Al Nassr, with whom he had lost the cup final before seeing his former teammate. Modric, who turns 39 in September, had just celebrated his second Orejona since the Portuguese left the Bernabéu in 2018.

He also arrived after completing his extension with Madrid a few days before the final.. It was the not so obvious culmination of a course that Ancelotti had chosen as the definitive turning point in his generational transition plan. The message from the preseason classic in Dallas was clear: neither Kroos nor Modric were in the starting eleven. Not even on the first day of the League in August in San Mamés. The Croat wandered sulkily through Valdebebas. “At first it was difficult for me to understand and take on this new role, even though you can never assume that,” he said in the interview.

While chewing his dissatisfaction, he continuously received sizeable offers to move to Saudi football, close to Cristiano. But he refused to leave Madrid, and especially to leave Madrid. At the Valdebebas office they imagined a 24/25 season without the number 10. They found this most useful for a transition that Arda Güler was impatient with. They were even inclined not to offer him a new contract year.

However, the wind turned. He found incentives to play, perhaps more marginal roles, but still in the definitive moments. “You play almost your entire career as a starter and important player, but there are times when you face different situations and have to fight. “I will never give up,” he said. It was still shaking with that tension. He was still shaking from the Bernabéu's enthusiasm for him. So in the days before the Wembley final he agreed to continue for another year in that relative backdrop of elite football's competitive frontline.

He reached the concentration in his refuge with his sixth Champions League, and also with the prospect that after the end of the European Championship he will have in mind to prepare again for a new season after a short break. As he always has. While it threatens to continue without an end date. “I always say that if they had given me a piece of paper on which I could write what I wanted to achieve in my career, I would have been afraid to write it all down,” he said yesterday at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. “I didn't expect it. But I'm here after so many years, and I'm happy to be here.”

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