Why Luka Modric is the man who made Real Madrid great again

Luka Modric UEFA Champions League
The Croatia midfielder has helped change Real's fortunes since his move from Tottenham in 2012, turning Los Blancos into a formidable force in Europe

The last time Real Madrid met Tottenham in the Champions League, Luka Modric was a Spurs player. The Croatian midfielder spent four memorable seasons at White Hart Lane before moving to the Spanish capital in 2012. And with his arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu, everything changed for Los Blancos.

Modric 16/5 to score v Spurs

Jose Mourinho's Madrid side won the title in 2011-12 with a record 100 points. Nevertheless, the Portuguese felt he needed more creativity in midfield and elected to sign Modric. Or 'Lucky Luka' as he was nicknamed by his team-mates after Real beat Barcelona to claim the Spanish Supercopa on his debut.

More difficult times followed, and amid dressing room unrest Madrid missed out on the major trophies at the end of the 2012-13 season, losing to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and against Atletico in the final of the Copa del Rey.

As Madrid fell off the pace in La Liga, Modric was voted as the "worst signing of the summer" in a poll ran by Marca, ahead of Barcelona's Alex Song. By the end of the campaign, however, he was one of the team's standout performers.

Luka Modric Real Madrid stats

Upon Modric's arrival, there was confusion over what would be his role. Modric was widely described as a "mediapunta", a support striker or playmaker. Anybody who had seen him in England, though, knew that his best position was as a midfielder sitting slightly deeper, carrying the ball forward and picking out team-mates with his superb vision and range of passing.

There were further doubts as Mourinho left and Carlo Ancelotti came in, but the Italian had praised the midfielder on television prior to his Madrid move and decided to build his team around the Croatian.

It worked. With Modric pulling the strings in midfield, Madrid became a better football team. In Europe especially, he has been the catalyst for three Champions League crowns over the past four seasons: one with Ancelotti and two more with Zidane.

In the first of those, it was a Modric corner that found Sergio Ramos for the late leveller that broke Atletico hearts in Lisbon. Ancelotti said last year: "Luka Modric is definitely one of best midfield players in the world. He has great technical abilities, reads the game and has a strong personality that he has built over the years. Besides that, he is a very pleasant person."

Luka Modric | Tottenham

Luka Modric Ivan Rakitic Real Madrid Barcelona Supercopa 16082017

Everybody says so. And besides being thought of as a great guy, Modric is considered by most to be among the best midfielders in the world right now, perhaps even the finest of them all.

"Modric is one of the best midfielders ever," Ukraine great Andriy Shevchenko told Goal earlier this month. And in an entertaining twist, Modric was voted as Madrid's finest footballer by readers of Marca in another poll in 2016.

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The 32-year-old has sung Zidane praises, saying the Frenchman brought "calm and stability" to the team. However, it is safe to say the current coach is also more than happy he has Modric in his team — especially after more peerless performances en route to a second straight European Cup win in June.

Although he is not prolific in terms of goals or assists, Modric makes Madrid tick. And it is no coincidence that Real have kept winning the Champions League since he signed for what now seems a ridiculously low €35 million fee back in 2012.

As much and perhaps even more than anyone else, it is he who made Madrid great again.