Zinedine Zidane, about to turn 33 years old, thus confessed about age and vigor. “Physical fullness ends at 30. For a footballer, the maximum performance occurs between 25 and 30. Fatigue is physical and mental. Going over 30 is like going over 40. They are barriers. I see my brother, who is 40, and he is having a terrible time. At 30, more or less the same thing happens, on another level. From 20 to 30 life seems wonderful, everything is in its place. You want to enjoy, go out, take advantage. Perfect. And I’m fine now, huh? But there is another thing ”, he warned in 2005. A season later, he announced his retirement, tired and frustrated, not only physically. “When I couldn’t help the team, I felt really bad. I don’t seem like it, but I’m a very complicated person ”, he would later reveal about his ending.
Those words of the Frenchman regarding its decline expressed the tribulations of a star that consciously attended its decline. Now, seen from a distance, they also reveal how the relationship between the most demanding sport and age has changed. An example of this is Zizou himself right next to him. Luka Modric, 35 and a half years old, insists and shows that he is not for retreats in luxurious deserts. “The important thing is what the player does on the field, not the passport. I feel good and I still want to compete at the highest level, “he claimed after eliminating Atalanta, three months after the expiration of a contract whose renewal for one more season is advanced.
His participation had just turned out to be decisive again in stretching Real Madrid’s European life. Plugged into the enthusiasm and enlightened knowledge of this thirty-year-old, the Whites tamed the Italians and made him pay for his rookie mistakes, as in 1-0. Goalkeeper Sportiello skidded and the Croatian gladly accepted it. So far he had come to press. Despite his age, Modric continues to cover all corners of the pitch, from his area to get the ball to the opposite to organize offensive maneuvers and catch what he finds. This season has produced the same goals as Vinicius (four goals and five assists), and more than Asensio (three and two) and Rodrygo (one and seven), although the latter comes from a two-month injury.
In the last season and a half, in the middle of a strategic decision by the club to renew the old guard, the Balkan has twice seen his position threatened by the emerging Valverde. And of both bretes he has come out the winner. Until the confinement, Zidane alternated the two, partly also to protect Modric’s body, but, after the confinement and in the sprint to the coronaliga, the weight of the Croatian grew (starting in eight of the nine games that was available) while the Uruguayan soccer was diluted. “I worked a lot, two months without stopping,” said the young 35. “I did not do things as a Real Madrid player should do,” acknowledged the Uruguayan.
This season he was a substitute for the squad in consecutive visits to Gladbach, San Siro and Camp Nou, in a role of agitator of the final stretch, however, since then there has been no one to move him. Modric already adds the same minutes as last year (2,617 compared to 2,631) and more titles (30 to 28). Of the last 29 games, he has only been absent from the starting eleven four times, and three of them were on break. The last, last Saturday against Elche, when he had to leave when he was half an hour away with Kroos to fix the mess.
With no more goalscoring certainties than Benzema’s, Madrid’s attack is largely explained by the lifelong trio from the center of the field. With Odegaard surrendered at the moment in Arsenal and Isco lost, there is no more competition for the Croatian, the German and Casemiro than the strength of Valverde, and only in interwar days, because in the crucial appointments nobody disputes this Holy Trinity.
Modric’s odometer progresses without his numbers suffering. In some attacking sections, they even improve. This season, he surpasses his average in Madrid in the percentage of successful dribbles (72% versus 66%) and in delivery precision in the last third of the field (83.99 versus 82.96). Like his soccer, none of his stats plummet. Nor in the national team, where his commitment remains intact almost three years after the world runner-up while others, such as Ivan Rakitic, have already closed that stage.
The return of a round of 16 of the Champions League drove him eight years ago after a pale start. That night at Old Trafford wasn’t even the first offensive change. Kaka came out before him. But a magnificent warped shot rescued Madrid against United and his life at the Bernabéu began to change forever. Camino de los 36, continues to be just as essential. The targets will be what people like Modric reach.