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The vinegar that threatens the lions

by archysport

Luka Modric controls a ball. / Javier Barbancho (Reuters)

Spain Supercup

Despite coming out of the semifinal with Barça, Modric will command Real Madrid again in the fight for the Super Cup against Athletic

Óscar Bellot

The last time Real Madrid and Athletic met, Luka Modric watched the game from home. The little genius from Zadar missed the whites’ visit to San Mamés on December 22 (1-2) because his covid-19 symptoms persisted, despite the fact that he had been testing negative in the successive PCR tests that had been performed on him. He suffered, through television, with the hasty victory of his team, which immediately put land in the middle with two goals from Karim Benzema but had to work hard to take the three points from La Catedral due to the also early goal of Ohian Sancet. On Sunday he will not miss the appointment with the lions in Riyadh, where he aspires to lift what would be his fourth Spanish Super Cup and the eighteenth title since landing in Chamartín in the summer of 2012 at the request of José Mourinho.

At 36, the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner is still in a race against time. He dreams of being in the World Cup in Qatar to once again lead the Croatian team, which he led to the runner-up position in Russia 2018. To do this, he maintains an enviable state of form, the result of a strict diet and a conscientious work plan, which allows him to continue being the undisputed leader of Real Madrid’s midfield. A club that extended its contract until June 30 of this year and with which it has already completed its renewal for another additional season, as a reward for its exceptional performance.

The Balkan player reached the figure of 69 matches played with Real Madrid in the semifinal against Barça once he had crossed the 35-year barrier, the same as Paco Gento, current honorary president of the Chamartín entity. Against Athletic, they will leave Galerna del Cantábrico behind and begin the hunt for Miguel Ángel (93) and Alfredo Di Stéfano (99), the next on that list of illustrious men who grew old wearing the whites’ jacket.

Since blowing out those 35 candles, Modric has only missed twelve games. An amazing record in these times of non-stop calendars and pathogens that spread at breakneck speed. His talent is also resistant to the rise of budding stars. Martin Odegaard or Dani Ceballos arrived at Real Madrid in their day with the purpose of picking up the witness of the former Tottenham player when he ran out of gasoline. The Norwegian gave up, bored, and the Utrera is going the same way. Because the Croatian has revealed himself as a true Benjamin Button and nobody is capable of overshadowing him.

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The partnership that he has formed with Casemiro and Kroos for more than six years is football history. Together they won three consecutive Champions Leagues, being decisive in Real Madrid’s last royal cycle in Europe. The triumvirate remains untouched since Zinedine Zidane set it as a lever after his first derby at the helm of Real Madrid. Neither Carlo Ancelotti has dared to discuss his hegemony. “They form the best stocking in the world today. Perhaps the midfielders who go from box to box are more classic, but they have so much experience and so much football that they are extraordinary. In addition, they turn out to mix very well. When the three of them are together, no one can compare to them”, asserted the Italian coach in an interview recently granted to the newspaper ‘As’.

The numbers back this up: of the fourteen games in which all three have started so far this season, the Whites have won thirteen. A fact that has prevented Modric from bringing out more than necessary that character that they fear so much in the locker room. “My teammates at Real Madrid call me ‘vinegar’ because even when I lose in training I take it badly,” said the Croatian, a professional from head to toe who lives by and for football, until point that he meditates being a coach when he hangs up his boots.

In the classic in Saudi Arabia, he was once again decisive. His ease in reading the spaces was key to unleashing the cons that dynamited Barça, to which he added the usual ability to fight to contain the onslaught of the azulgranas. The effort made left him exhausted and the coach had no choice but to withdraw him in the final stretch of the second half. You know the need to treat him with care. The benefits of Real Madrid fall many integers without the ’10’ on the green. In the final against Athletic, his proverbial capacity for resistance will be tested again.


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