Luka Modric has insisted “there’s still a lot of hunger” after Real Madrid qualified for the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since 2018 with a 3-1 win over Atalanta.
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Veterans Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos were both on the scoresheet, while Marco Asensio added a late third after Luis Muriel had responded with a free kick, as Madrid returned to the competition’s last eight on Tuesday night.
The European giants won the Champions League for three years in a row from 2016 to 2018 with many of their current squad playing key roles, but were knocked out in the round-of-16 by Ajax Amsterdam in 2019 and Manchester City in 2020.
“It was important to go through to the quarterfinals, which we hadn’t done for two years,” Modric said. “We’ve shown tonight that there’s still a lot of hunger in this team, that it wants to keep winning. I hope we can go far, let’s see how far.
“I’ve always said you shouldn’t look at players’ ages,” Modric said, saying he feels 27 rather than 35. “It’s about what a player does on the pitch. The years and the passport don’t matter. With my physique and what I’ve achieved here, I’m still hungry to compete at the highest level.”
Coach Zinedine Zidane was full of praise for Modric’s midfield partnership with Toni Kroos in the absence of the suspended Casemiro.
“As a double pivot, Luka and Toni are phenomenal,” he said. “If you talk to me about Luka, we know the player he is… He’s really intelligent. He’s 35 but on the pitch he doesn’t look it.”
“At 34, I’d decided to retire,” Zidane added, when asked about the team’s core of Modric, Benzema and Ramos. “But they’re hungry, they want to keep making history, winning games and trophies.”
Zidane was also pleased with the performance of Vinicius Junior, who won the second-half penalty converted by Ramos.
“The penalty is down to him, with the speed he has,” he said. “We know he can get any defence into trouble. He tries…When Vini gets the ball in space, his speed can make the difference.”
Modric’s contract at the Bernabeu expires this summer — although he’s expected to sign a one-year extension — as does that of club captain Ramos, 34.
“When you’ve looked after yourself for so many years, you end up getting it back,” Ramos said, adding that there’s no news on his own negotiations. “You can’t judge anyone by their I.D. It’s about performance. The most important thing is we’re happy where we are and we give our best. People should value that.”