Welcome Ryan Rosenblatt to the Player in My Pocket series. Rosey writes over at Cartilage Free Captain, the SBN Tottenham Hotspur blog (surprise) and for SB Nation Soccer. Possibly some other things too, but really, it's his text messages that comprise his best work...except for this lovely ditty about Luka. Whom he hearts.
There are precious few players who can compare to Luka Modric and precious is a good word to use in describing the dazzling Croatian. Generously listed at 5'8'' and in need of a couple cheeseburgers, Modric has emerged as one of the top creative midfielders in the game, capable of spraying a ball anywhere on the field whenever he wants with aplomb. How incredible is Modric? I have personally heard three Arsenal fans admit begrudging admiration for the Tottenham Hotspur player.
Modric's skill takes a backseat to his all-around stupendousness (new word!) though. After all, how can you not love a little Croatian who runs surprisingly fast for someone with an awkward gait, whose long hair flows behind him as he runs, who has the smile if a five-year-old and needed help tying his tie when he had to put a suit on? If there is a single law in the world to be called most true (even more than gravity), it is that nobody can help but love little Luka.
Just because he is a star for a London Champions League team and the Croatian national team doesn't mean that Modric has always had things easy. In fact, Modric grew up during the bloody Croatian War of Independence, which was hardly sunshine and rainbows. After signing with Dinamo Zagreb as a youth player, Modric was loaned out a couple times before sticking with Zagreb and becoming a star for them.
Modric signed with Tottenham in the summer of 2008 and people wondered if the little midfielder could handle the Premier League physicality. Um, the then 23-year-old had grown up during a war and excelled in a loan spell with a Bosnian club where leg breaking tackles are just for funsies. Maybe questioning if he could handle the physicality wasn't the smartest criticism?
Now in his third season in the Premier League, Modric has proven to be up to the task and more. His play in Spurs' run to the top four earned him a pay raise while clubs like Manchester United were interested in signing him away. Why wouldn't Sir Alex Ferguson want Luka?
Anyone who has watched Luka play can tell he is a class above from the first minue. His vision is sensational and it never looks like he is trying very hard. He moves around the field in a nice, comfortable jog, controlling the tempo of the match with the ball on a string. He plays the mind-boggling long balls that make one wonder how he saw the pass and then completed it, but also makes the simple pass when needed too. Of course, he does this all as a diminutive little figure with goofy flowing long hair behind him.
More than anything, Modric is still a little kid, innocent and wide eyed to the world that makes him well, precious. When Luka got to Spurs he wanted to get a car for he and his girlfriend, but he didn't have a license. The club has someone who handles all personal matters for the players and that person told Modric that it was no worry. She would fill out the paperwork and arrange the driving lessons. She just needed him to sign the papers and bring in a photo of him and his girlfriend. She assumed Modric would know that meant a passport photo or something of the sort. No, little Luka returned the next day with a picture of him with his arm around his girlfriend and both smiling like goofs.