Modric and Kroos are Real Madrid’s ageless wonders
Two old men sit on a bench and calmly watch the world go by. They are tired, their bodies hurt, but that’s okay: they are happy. They did their job, they did their job here, a well-deserved rest. Let someone else try. Children play in front of them. The couple that someone remembers has always been seen together, practically inseparable, they have survived a million battles. So many stories to tell, all those good times. It’s not that they need to tell them or say a word: they just know. So they sit silently. Until eventually Tony and Luka get up and go home.
They will return. Not here outside there.
There is a beautiful photo from Real Madrid’s victory over Liverpool in the Champions League, in which Toni Kroos And Luc Modric fall on the bench, just taken off, coats pulled over the sets, and watch the last minutes. Kroos has ice on his ankle, his socks are down, and he is unbuttoning his worn boots, the same model he has been wearing for ten years, even though the manufacturer has stopped making them for anyone else. Beside him, Modric rests his hands on the bottle. He’s hunched over and looks devastated, like he can’t even really see what’s in front of him, like if it was up to him, he wouldn’t move anymore. But he will.
Oh he will.
Love this photo https://t.co/VZYROT5kLs
— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) March 17, 2023
There is something almost pure, restrained in the picture. Something that says, well, football. It has a quiet dignity: dirt, grass stains, almost empty expressions, nothing left, nothing spared. Knowing what they just did, especially. Knowing WHO they are all the more so. It is easy to imagine a conversation consisting of a single exchange of remarks:
“Everything was OK”.
Everything is fine? It was damn brilliant, again. The rest is well deserved. It is also short. The couple is removed, it’s true, but not before the 82nd and 84th minutes, when their entry into the next round is guaranteed. And this is only to waste time, Carlo Ancelotti admits, and not because he needed it or because they needed it. They are not here to be protected or cared for; they are not going to hold back or make concessions to age. They are here to play. Like no one else can. It’s like they don’t have to play anymore, or that’s the way it is.
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Modric 37, Kroos 33. They have played more than 800 games for Real Madrid for two. They only have four months left on their contract, not that much. They could stop at any moment, leave, relax towards the end.
Madrid has Federico Valverde, he is one of several lungs: a Uruguayan international who is one of the top three midfielders in the world. The person who said it? Kroos. He never said that the other two were he and Modric – he never said that – and honoring Valverde even meant forgetting them, but would he be so wrong if he said? Madrid has Daniel Ceballostoo much. Aurélien Chuameni And Eduardo Camavinga were signed for big money. They’re haunting Jude Bellingham. All of them are younger than ten years.
Their coach talks – now openly – about the transition. In truth, this already happened last season, even if it wasn’t talked about at the time: those Champions League comebacks were partly built on young players leaving the bench and veterans on the pitch. “Six minutes of quality, 30 minutes of energy,” Ancelotti called it. Debates are repeated from time to time, and not always without reason: an update is needed. Modern football requires something different. This cannot go on; They I can’t continue like this. Before the game with Liverpool, the question is put somewhat simplistic, as if these are mutually exclusive concepts: experience or energy?
And yet, when it comes to another night in the Champions League, a lot of of them — and here they are again. When it comes to Clasico on Sunday they will probably be there too. In big games classic, Knockouts, Finals – When available, they start together in over 90% of matches. The last 14 times they were both available, Ancelotti started them together. Kroos and Modric as always, as if time had stopped.
Unlike them. On Wednesday they were again against Liverpool. And there they dominated, only giving way when it was done. Every time someone hints that it’s over, they seem to get up and say: are you sure? So are they younger? So what?
Ahead of them on Sunday, Barcelona’s midfield is likely to include Sergio Busquets And Frankie Young. He will also have Pedri And Gavi. Pedri 20, Gavi 18. Add up their ages and they are only the same age as Modric. Gavi was 1 when Modric made his Madrid debut; he was only 3 years old when Kroos did it. Considered the epitome of style and personality, Gavi and Pedri are frequently judged by Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, Golden Boy winners, a standard response to debates about the best midfielders La Liga has ever seen. They are likely to carry some sort of cross throughout their careers.
At times it may seem that Kroos and Modric do not count, even though the comparison may be favorable, even as semi-contemporaries. There has been no shortage of success, and stylistically there is definitely something to it. Kroos recently said: “When I think about the next 10-15 years, I get worried. Clubs are looking for players with different profiles. Is he fast? Is he big? Is he strong? And only then do they ask: can he play the ball?” This is very similar to what Javi said.
The game is going somewhere else – at least it’s fear – but there’s always room for that kind of talent, there’s always time for those who seem to be able to manipulate it. So there they quietly continue to just be better than anyone else. No narrative, no big statements, no storyline, nothing explicit. Just great football, week after week. Each of them received 30 million euros for the transfer: it is difficult to imagine a pair of signings that would offer such value for money. It’s hard to imagine such a couple. And yet, the most important statement of all, is this the best partnership the midfield has ever had? seems to never be said.
This does not mean that they are ignored, underestimated or overlooked. The internationally popular Modric eventually won the Ballon d’Or, Croatia’s colossal victory in the World Cup final earned him the accolade in a season that wasn’t even his greatest domestically, he set the bar so high.
As for Kroos, he is a very good boy. Yes, that’s him. Yes, that’s him. And yes, it was just an excuse to mention the best of Toni Kroos facts – that Luis Diazthe dog is named after him. There can be no greater recognition than naming a dog after you, and yet sometimes it seems that he is rarely included in a conversation in which he could be the center of attention, perhaps a victim of his behavior, his refusal to indulge in football trivialities. . About his own style, seeming lightness, calmness, calmness. No blood, no thunder, no flash. Control.
Even his trademark goal is to pass: just the receiver is the net.
Put them together and you get what Madrid has. Kroos recently played his 400th game for the club. “Could be worse” he tweeted, which was very similar to Toni Kroos’ tweet. And yes, it could. It was a decade of European success, unsurpassed by anyone else in the modern era, surpassed only by the Madrid team that won the first five European Cups.
Last season, UEFA posted a tweet asking Modric or Kroos. “AND,” Kroos replied. In February, Modric noted that he kept hearing that they couldn’t play together. Oh really? Victorious but exhausted on Wednesday, they will return again four days later. This could be the last Clasico they have ever played in La Liga. Their contracts expire at the end of the season.
Kroos has said he will end his career at Madrid but does not know when exactly. He is expected to sign a contract for another year, but this has not yet been announced. “We have a great relationship with the club. No one will say stupid things,” he insisted.
Modrić, meanwhile, said before the first match against Liverpool that he had not spoken to the club yet. “I want to continue,” he admitted. “If they feel that I deserve a sequel, I would like it. Whatever happens, nothing will change my relationship with Madrid, which is the club of my life. I don’t want to give anything.” Right now, even those Madrid fans who know that a new era must eventually dawn will do their best to keep them, so that the transition goes smoothly.
Not least because, although they refuse to accept that they remain residual, there is an awareness. Ancelotti noted that he asked the younger players for patience, the older ones for understanding. “They have no ego,” he said. In that photo you can somehow see: two old men, having given everything.
They have won everything: Modric has three leagues and five Champions Leagues. Kroos has three leagues and four Champions Leagues (plus one with Bayern Munich). They played 873 matches, the last few minutes of the most recent one could be seen from the bench, confident of victory, ready to return to the field and in Clasico too much.
“They’re not playing because of what they’ve done,” Ancelotti said. “They play because they deserve it.”