For over a decade, the two LMs have been formidable rivals but near each other.
It was December 3, 2018, and an unusually dreamy night in Paris when Croatian footballer Luka Modric ended the 10-year dominance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Ballon d’Or. Months before, on July 15, 2018, the Modric-led Croatian team ended their dream run at the Fifa World Cup in Russia with second place on the podium. In May of the same year, Modric was an important part of the Real Madrid team that lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy.
In the 2018 Fifa World Cup, Croatia defeated Messi-led Argentina 3-0 in the group stage. The same year, Messi’s FC Barcelona edged Real Madrid to win the Spanish La Liga. Modric was a part of the Real Madrid team. On December 2, 2019, Luka Modric presented Messi with his sixth Ballon d’Or on another star-studded night in Paris.
The two giants of the game, donning number 10 for their respective teams, will clash again at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar in the high-stakes semi-final of the Fifa World Cup 2022.
From 2006 to 2022
On a snowy March 1, 2006, in Basel, Switzerland, one 18-year-old Argentinian forward curled the ball past Croatia’s Stjepan Tomas in a friendly game in Switzerland to score his debut international goal. Messi, it was clear, was ready for the greatness that was to follow him in the coming years.
In the same match, on the same pitch, a Croatian midfielder on his international debut was holding his ground against Argentinian giants like Riquelme and Cambiasso. Modric, too looked special on the field. Argentina was defeated 3-2.
Since then, Messi and Modric have clashed head-to-head countless times. They became rivals when in 2012, Modric joined Real Madrid and Messi was already a part of the FC Barcelona squad. It lasted for almost ten years and ended when in 2021, Messi left FCB to join Paris Saint-Germain. The two players saw their game peaking in those ten years. Messi won 5 Ballon d’Ors between 2012 and 2021. Modric was the only player to win the award in those ten years apart from Messi and Ronaldo.
Masters of the game, staring at retirement
Both LMs are considered to be masters of playmaking. Modric, a central midfielder, plays a central role in the team. Messi, who plays as a forward, acts as the link between the midfield and the attack of the Argentinean team.
Both the captains are heavily dependent upon. It is almost impossible to imagine both the national teams without their own LMs in the playing XI today. Both Messi and Modric have played all the games, full-time for their teams in the current World Cup.
However, as much as they are pivotal, they are also turning old. Messi is 35, Modric 37. Sports enthusiasts have signalled that it may be the last World Cup for both of them.
Both of them may soon exit the international stage, which they entered together 16 years ago.
So, perhaps today’s semi-final, in addition to being as crucial as it gets for both of them, is also exceptionally special. Two people fighting to claim the prize they equally love and have dedicated all their lives to?
Not trophies, today’s match is about the delight of being born as human beings.