Luka Modric ‘may be 35 but he doesn’t look it on the pitch’, says Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid manager hails ‘phenomenal’ star for inspiring Spanish giants to the Champions League quarter-finals over Atalanta
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane praised an evergreen Luka Modric after the 35-year-old midfielder produced a majestic display in a comfortable 3-1 win over Atalanta on Tuesday as the Spanish side reached the Champions League quarter-finals.
Modric played a crucial role in breaking the deadlock by contributing to his side’s high-pressing game and intercepting a kick out from Atalanta keeper Marco Sportiello to set up Karim Benzema for the opening goal.
‘We all know the player Modric is, he may be 35 but he sure doesn’t look it out on the pitch,’ Zidane told reporters after his side made it to the last eight of Europe’s top competition for the first time since 2018.
Luka Modric (centre) has been praised by Zinedine Zidane for his display against Atalanta
Zidane (left) hailed his midfielder after Real’s 3-1 Champions League last-16 second leg win
Working in tandem with fellow pass-master Toni Kroos in the absence of suspended holding midfielder Casemiro, the Croatian also helped Real control possession and deal with Atalanta’s energetic pressing game.
‘Each player has their own characteristics and as a holding midfield duo, they are phenomenal,’ added the Frenchman on Kroos and Modric.
Modric, who was voted the best player in the world in 2018, said he still felt fit enough to keep on going for a few more years in Europe’s elite.
‘I feel as though I’m still 27. I feel really good and it goes to show you should not look at how old someone is. What matters is what we do on the pitch, not our passports,’ he said.
‘With my current shape, and with everything I’ve achieved with this club, I’m still hungry to keep competing at the highest level and I’ll keep working hard every day to do that.’
Apart from a couple of scares, Real dominated the match to secure a 4-1 aggregate win thanks to a penalty from Sergio Ramos and a late Marco Asensio strike, which arrived immediately after Luis Muriel had hit back for Atalanta from a free kick.
The 35-year-old was brilliant in midfield for the Spanish giants during Tuesday night’s victory
‘You have to congratulate the players because we played splendidly from start to finish, against a team that demands a lot of you physically,’ Zidane added.
‘We did exactly what we needed to do, both in defence and when we had the ball. We could say it was a complete performance.’
Atalanta’s Muriel was in awe of Real’s coolness under pressure.
‘They managed to come out of our pressure very easily, it’s something that leaves a big impression on you, their calmness on the ball even though they were playing a tie which would have caused them many problems had they lost,’ said the Colombian.
‘You never see players of that type of quality in Italian football.’