Modric opens up on three-year rift with Mandzukic with limited communication

They formed an important part of the Croatia side that reached the World Cup final in 2018, but there was a time that Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic were not on the best of terms as national team-mates

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Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic may have been key pillars to the Croatia team that reached the World Cup final in 2018, but things were not always so rosy between the pair.

Mandzukic announced his retirement from football last week following an exciting career that led to him turn out for Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and AC Milan, his final club.

Across his glittering career in Europe, the striker won four Serie A titles with Juventus and the Bundesliga twice with Bayern Munich, as well as triumphing in the Champions League in 2012-13.

The 35-year-old’s individual career highlight came during the 2016-17 Champions League final when he executed a stunning overhead kick against Real Madrid, even if the Bianconeri went on to lose 4-1.

Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic did not talk for years after their bizarre feud

He is also one of the most-capped players in Croatia’s history and only Davor Suker has scored more goals at international level than Mandzukic’s 33.

Having been the same age as Modric and coming through the ranks at Dinamo Zagreb, the pair have known each other for the best part of two decades.

But snippets from the Real Madrid star’s autobiography, ’My Game’, have resurfaced after Mandzukic’s retirement which lifted the lid on how the pair ended up not talking to each other back in 2014.

“Mario is a special guy. Sometimes he seems grumpy,” Modric wrote. “Those who don’t know him well would think that in reality he is always frowning.

“All this time I have known Mario as a great boy, with a big heart. I loved him from day one, even though it took me a long time to understand [him].

“We spent a lot of time together on the national team. On a visit to Iceland, when we were trying to go to the World Cup in Brazil, I ran into Mandzukic in front of the hotel elevator.

Luka Modric said he felt Mario Mandzukic was in the wrong but made the first move to repair relations


Getty Images)

“‘Come on Mario, we’re going hard today,’ I told him, since many times the players cheer each other on in training or before the game.

“Mandzukic, however, surprised me with his reaction: ‘Look at yourself, leave me.’ It seemed to me that it was a momentary upset.

“I always had a good relationship with Mario. We were in constant contact until then. Then there was silence, the relationship cooled.”

They would continue to play for their country despite their feud, but it was not until the World Cup in Russia some four years later that Modric made the first step in trying to reconnect.

Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic eventually made peace before the 2018 World Cup

“If he had the wisdom of now, he would have clarified it immediately or, in the worst case, in the next concentration [meeting] of the national team,” he added.

“But I was also defiant. When two difficult people are short-circuited, the energy disappears. Frankly, he was wrong, but he didn’t want to take the first step.

“I waited for the right moment and started the conversation. I wanted to tell him how sorry I was that we no longer had a close relationship.

“I was interested to know the reason why we had been communicating exclusively in a cold way for more than three years.

“We spoke openly and saw that the problem came out of nowhere. ‘I didn’t get mad at you. I thought you were sulking with me’, he told me.

“I said the same thing. Positive energy flowed between Mario and me again. We share some traits: a kind of introversion, a little more difficult to show emotions, we know how to be stubborn.

Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic celebrate their win for Croatia against England at the 2018 World Cup

“But he is the person I would go to any fight with. Whatever it is, I know he will give everything, protect your back and never betray you.”

Mandzukic went on to have a huge impact for Zlatko Dalic’s side, scoring the winning goal in extra-time to devastate England fans and send Croatia to the final.

He also netted in the showpiece event in Moscow but on that day, it wasn’t enough as France cruised to a 4-2 victory to clinch the trophy.

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