Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric speaks after winning the trophy for the Best FIFA Men's Player of 2018 Award during The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony, on September 24, 2018 in London. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Luka 'The Best' Modric: Three Standout Performances That Define the Midfielder's Qualities

It's official! Luka Modric has been named Best FIFA Men's Player for 2018, ending Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's decade-long duopoly of football's individual awards. The Real Madrid midfielder had a spectacular season, helping Los Blancos to their 13th Champions League crown before leading Croatia to the World Cup finals in Russia. 


Seeing a midfielder bag football's highest recognition does seem like a dream. But all things considered, the Croat really deserved some sort of recognition for the shift he put in over the last year, for emerging as a complete midfielder. 


Here, honouring the maestro, we look at three standout performances which helped Luka Modric become 'The Best.'

3. Real Madrid 2-2 Bayern Munich

After claiming a narrow 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena, Real Madrid were heavily favoured to book themselves a place in their third consecutive Champions League final. Team's number 10, Luka Modric, did not have the best of outings in Germany, and needed to turn it around at the Santiago Bernabeu. 


In Dani Carvajal's absence, Lucas Vazquez started in an unnatural right-back position, and Modric hovered above to help the Spaniard settle. As expected, Frank Ribery and David Alaba doubled up to exploit the right flank, but Modric was never going to have it their way. 


He made three crucial interceptions on the night, cut passing lanes and was unmatched with his work rate. His ball control, too, was immaculate as ever, helping his teammates get into the game despite Bayern's aggressive pressing. 

2. Croatia 3-0 Argentina

Slotted alongside Argentina, Iceland, and Nigeria, Croatia weren't supposed to have it easy in Russia. They were tipped as one of the World Cup dark horses, but not many expected them to achieve what they did. 


Facing Lionel Messi's Argentina in their tournament opener, Croatia started the game slowly and steadily. Team's lynchpin, Modric, was firmly stationed in the middle of the park, hoping to outclass Argentina's dynamic midfield. After an uneventful first-half, Croatia came out all guns blazing in the second. Modric kept pushing himself further and further up the pitch, completely outclassing La Albiceleste's resistance. 


While Ante Rebic's opener settled Croatia's nerves, Luka Modric's 80-minute outside-the-box piledriver put his side in the driving seat. Direct and decisive, Argentina fell prey to another masterclass from the majestic midfielder. 

1. Russia 1-1 Croatia (Croatia Through on Penalties)

Getting the better of Denmark on penalties took almost everything out of Croatia. Now, exhausted and excited, the Croats took on the hosts, Russia, in an uncomfortable evening in Sochi. Russia, riding on home support, came out firing from the gates and took the game to Croatia. 


The team's exemplary skipper, Luka Modric, looked fatigued at the start, feeling the after-effects of the penalty he had missed against Denmark. Against the hosts, he was once again asked to rise up to the occasion, and this time, he delivered. 


In terms of quality, Croatia were quite ahead of Russia, but were not able to match their intensity. As the match aged, Luka kept growing in stature and confidence, commanding every aspect in the middle of the park. 


He completed 89 (102 attempted) passes on the night and covered the most distance. To top it all off, he assisted Croatia's second goal and converted from the spot during another nerve-wracking shootout.