Croatia’s veteran playmaker Luka Modric was “hit really hard” by his team’s defeat to Argentina in Tuesday’s World Cup semifinal, according to the team’s manager Zlatko Dalic.
The 37-year-old Modric made his 161st appearance for his country in the final four match where an inspired Argentina beat Croatia 3-0 to book a spot in Sunday’s final.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
That loss leaves Croatia with a third-place playoff against Morocco on Saturday, and it is unclear whether Modric will play any more for the national team after the World Cup.
The 10-time Croatian footballer of the year won the Ballon D’or and the FIFA Golden Ball in 2018 as he captained his national team to the World Cup final – which they lost 4-2 to France.
On Tuesday, Modric was taken off late in the second half to a standing ovation from both Croatian and Argentinian fans. The optics raised questions about whether it was a final goodbye, with the Real Madrid midfielder hugging each of his teammates as he traipsed off the pitch.
Dalic has suggested that he would like the current Croatian side, with Modric at the helm, to remain together until the 2024 European Championships.
“We have had a great team, and this generation will finish off their career at Euro 2024”, Dalic said at a press conference on Tuesday. “We have the Nations League and an excellent generation who reached two semifinals”, he added.
Modric has also enjoyed considerable success at club level, winning La Liga three times and picking up five Champions League trophies during his 11 at Real Madrid.
Dalic said that Modric would make the decision on international retirement “on his own” but added that “surely the whole world would miss him if he retires from the national team, and I hope he won’t decide to do that”.
“Luka Modric showed he is not only a great player, he’s a great professional, a great sportsman,” Dalic said.
Early in the tournament, Modric hinted that he would like to extend his stay at Real Madrid for another season. His current contract is due to expire in the summer due to the club’s policy of only handing annual extensions to players over 30.
“Of course, I want to retire in Madrid; I’ve said that many times,” Modric said. “You can’t say anything for 100 percent, but that’s my idea, and it’s a dream for me.”