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Champions League

Croatia hero Luka Modric is former refugee whose granddad was shot dead when he was six but still became a superstar


LUKA MODRIC has enjoyed a stunning career, including winning the Ballon d’Or title in 2018, and is set to face England at Euro 2021 on June 13.

But his upbringing could not have been tougher.

 Luka Modric endured a tough childhood

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Luka Modric endured a tough childhood
 Growing up in Zadar, Modric won accolades for his local team

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Growing up in Zadar, Modric won accolades for his local teamCredit: Collect
 The burned-out former house Modric lived in with his grandfather

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The burned-out former house Modric lived in with his grandfatherCredit: Getty – Contributor

When the Croatia and Real Madrid superstar was just six years old, his entire existence was rocked by the shooting of his beloved granddad at the hands of militant Serbian thugs and he was forced to live life as a refugee in his war-torn homeland.

But despite such hardship, that didn’t stop the ambitious kid from going on to become one of the best players on the planet and, now aged 35, a global superstar.

In 2018, he was voted the best player on the planet, ending the decade of dominance of the award by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

But on December 8, 1991, during Croatia’s war of independence, violent Serbian militia stormed Modrici, a small village near the Velebit mountains in northern Dalmatia and wrought terror on Croatian families who hadn’t escaped.

One of those caught in the crossfire was Luka Modric Snr, who was walking his cattle up an abandoned street when he was cornered by a group of Serbians.

They brutally executed him along with five other locals.

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The idea was to send a message to other Modrici residents that they must leave their town behind, but it robbed the future Real Madrid midfielder of his grandfather.

 Modrici was where Modric was raised before his family fled to Zadar

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Modrici was where Modric was raised before his family fled to ZadarCredit: Getty – Contributor
 An early football club registration card from Modric's childhood

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An early football club registration card from Modric’s childhoodCredit: Collect
 Modric was just six when his granddad was murdered by Serbian militia

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Modric was just six when his granddad was murdered by Serbian militia
 Modric has gone on to great success with the Croatian national team and Real Madrid

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Modric has gone on to great success with the Croatian national team and Real MadridCredit: AFP or licensors
 Many Croatians were forced out of their villages by Serbian forces

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Many Croatians were forced out of their villages by Serbian forcesCredit: Ron Haviv

It hit Luka hard.

At the time, he was raised by Modric Snr while his parents Stipe and Radojka worked long hours in a knitwear factory to support the family financially.

And amazing footage emerged during the 2018 World Cup of a young Luka herding goats.

I was six years old. These were really hard times. I remember them vividly but it’s not something you want to remember or think about

After the incident, his parents were forced to leave Modrici and they sought refuge at the Hotel Iz in the town of Zadar.

Without any electricity or running water, the sound of grenades and bullets became a daily occurrence for little Luka and his sister Jasmina, not to mention avoiding landmines potentially buried around any corner.

But that didn’t stop the boy from kicking a small, punctured football around the hotel car park, dreaming that one day he would be able to leave his war-torn existence behind.

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 The family home Modric grew up in still stands today

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The family home Modric grew up in still stands todayCredit: Getty – Contributor
 Families were torn apart, while an estimated 140,000 lost their lives during the war

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Families were torn apart, while an estimated 140,000 lost their lives during the warCredit: Toni Hnojčik
 The town of Zadar became Modric's home when he was forced out of Modrici

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The town of Zadar became Modric’s home when he was forced out of ModriciCredit: AFP – Getty
 Modric went from rags-to-riches through hard work and determination

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Modric went from rags-to-riches through hard work and determinationCredit: Getty – Contributor
 The Yugoslav Civil War began in 1991 and ended in 2001

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The Yugoslav Civil War began in 1991 and ended in 2001Credit: Romeo Ibrišević
 The town of Modrici is near Croatia's Velebit mountains

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The town of Modrici is near Croatia’s Velebit mountainsCredit: Getty – Contributor

It’s a rags-to-riches tale that’s testament to the four-time Champions League winner’s dedication and determination to succeed in the wake of an awful tragedy.

Modric rarely talks about his hardship, but when he signed for Spurs back in 2008, he briefly addressed the issues that blighted his childhood.

“When the war started we became refugees and it was a really tough time,” Modric revealed.

“I was six years old. These were really hard times. I remember them vividly but it’s not something you want to remember or think about.

 Croatia's captain led his team to the final of the 2018 World Cup

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Croatia’s captain led his team to the final of the 2018 World CupCredit: EPA
 Modric began his footballing education at Dinamo Zagreb

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Modric began his footballing education at Dinamo ZagrebCredit: AFP – Getty
 As a young teen, Modric starred in midfield for Dinamo Zagreb

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As a young teen, Modric starred in midfield for Dinamo ZagrebCredit: Getty – Contributor
 Serbian military volunteers were responsible for intimidating Croatian families

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Serbian military volunteers were responsible for intimidating Croatian familiesCredit: Imre Szabo
 Many children were affected by the events of the Yugoslav Civil War

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Many children were affected by the events of the Yugoslav Civil WarCredit: Christopher Morris
 Just a stone's throw away from Modric's abandoned home, a sign warns of the dangers of landmines nearby

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Just a stone’s throw away from Modric’s abandoned home, a sign warns of the dangers of landmines nearbyCredit: Getty – Contributor

“We lived in a hotel for many years as we struggled financially, but I always loved football.

“I remember my first shin pads had the Brazilian Ronaldo on them and I loved them.

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“The war made me stronger, it was a very hard time for me and my family. I don’t want to drag that with me forever, but I don’t want to forget about it either.”

It’s that mental toughness that has served Modric well during his career.

 Family man Modric has a son called Ivano

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Family man Modric has a son called IvanoCredit: AP:Associated Press
 Modric met his wife Vanja Bosnic in 2007 at the Mamic sports agency

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Modric met his wife Vanja Bosnic in 2007 at the Mamic sports agencyCredit: Getty Images – Getty
 Ivan Rakitić and Luka Modric formed a terrific midfield partnership for Croatia at the 2018 World Cup, but Rakitić retired from international duty in 2020

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Ivan Rakitić and Luka Modric formed a terrific midfield partnership for Croatia at the 2018 World Cup, but Rakitić retired from international duty in 2020Credit: Instagram @lukamodric10

In Croatia’s stunning run to the Russia 2018 final, he overcame missing a penalty in normal time versus Denmark in the last-16 to step up in the shootout and send his side through.

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He also took a pen in his country’s second penalty shootout win over Russia in the quarter-finals that ensured their semi-final berth.

However, when Modric was 10 years old he was written off by a number of coaches who thought he was too frail and shy to make it in the game.

Hajduk Split passed on him and it was only when Tomislav Basic, a coach of a team that Modric played for in Zadar, stepped in and used his contacts to get Luka a trial at Dinamo Zagreb.

 At Spurs, Luka Modric was a cult hero

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At Spurs, Luka Modric was a cult heroCredit: PA:Press Association
 In 2012, Modric moved to Real Madrid for a fee of £30m

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In 2012, Modric moved to Real Madrid for a fee of £30mCredit: Getty – Contributor
 During his career with Real Madrid, Modric has lifted the Champions League four times

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During his career with Real Madrid, Modric has lifted the Champions League four timesCredit: Getty Images – Getty

From there his talent flourished, he went on to Tottenham and Real Madrid and is now a star for both club and country, as well as being one of the most respected footballers in the world.

And his personal life couldn’t be much better either.

He married Vanja Bosnic, who also acts as his agent, in 2010 in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. The pair first met at Mamic sports agency, where she worked.

Modric’s former Tottenham and Croatia team-mate Vedran Corluka was the best man at their wedding.

The couple’s first child, son Ivano, was born just three weeks after their big day.

Since then, they have had two daughters; five-year-old Ema and Sofia, who was born in 2017.

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 Vanja Bosnic poses for a snap with son Ivano and daughters Ema and Sofia

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Vanja Bosnic poses for a snap with son Ivano and daughters Ema and Sofia
 Modric has been recognised as one of the world's best players

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Modric has been recognised as one of the world’s best playersCredit: Getty – Contributor
 Bosnic and Modric married in 2010 in Zagreb

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Bosnic and Modric married in 2010 in ZagrebCredit: Instagram @lukamodric10

Bosnic is said to have such an influence on his life, she was deemed to be the person responsible for orchestrating his £30m move to Real Madrid.

Modric’s remarkable rise to the top of world football was confirmed when he won the Ballon d’Or.

No wonder his father Stipe was so emotional, saying: “I am the happiest and proudest father in the world.

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“You are my genius. I can’t find words.”





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