Luka Modric could pick up his fifth Champions League winners’ medal on Saturday night, matching the number of times Cristiano Ronaldo has won it.
He could easily have left the club the same year as the Portuguese but Madrid resisted his attempts to move to Inter Milan and they’ve been congratulating themselves on insisting he stayed ever since.
It felt like the end of an era after Real Madrid beat Liverpool in Kiev. Ronaldo said he was off in his post-match interview and Zinedine Zidane was not far behind him. Modric was 33 years of age and with only a year left on his deal he wanted a new challenge and some contract security.
Inter were offering him three years but they were not willing to pay a big transfer fee and wanted Madrid to take into account he only had a year left on his deal and let him leave on the cheap.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez insisted he only left if a club paid his release clause, which stood at a completely out-of-bounds €750m. Modric was fuming at the decision. He felt his brilliant service to the club merited better treatment.
But Madrid stood firm. They had come to the conclusion that even at 33 Modric was too good to lose, especially in the same year as Ronaldo, and everything the Croatian does now aged 36 and nine months, tells them they got the decision absolutely right.
It didn’t take long for them to feel justified either.
When Lionel Messi and Ronaldo’s 10-year domination of the Ballon d’Or finally came to an end in 2018 it was Modric who took their place on the stage at Le Grand Palais in Paris, crowned the world’s best player.
Lifting the trophy in Kyiv in 2018 marked Cristiano Ronaldo’s fifth Champions League title and Modric is about to achieve that.