Yesterday was a banner day in the history of Croatian football, as for the first time ever the small nation advanced to the finals of the World Cup. While he didn’t factor on the score sheet, and was indeed substituted late in the second half, there is little doubt that Croatia made it this far thanks in large part to the stellar play of Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric. Through his tireless running and brilliant passing, Modric has helped steer his nation to the brink of glory, staying calm behind the wheel as Croatia ran into roadblocks in seemingly every match.
While Croatia’s immediate fate will be determined on Sunday, their long-term footballing future may very well be in the hands of one of Roma’s newest and youngest faces, midfielder Ante Coric. The 21-year-old Croatian midfielder has long been dubbed “The Next Modric” and, much like his would be namesake, started his senior career off with Dinamo Zagreb before making the Roma switch last month in the middle of Monchi’s shopping spree. Coric, much like Modric, is known for his patience on the ball and his ability to pick out pass, controlling the match through intuition rather than brawn.
Similar in pedigree and similar in style. Shit, they’re both even the same height, so perhaps the comparisons were inevitable. Still, being dubbed “The Next ________” has doomed many a kid, so while it’s flattering to garner comparisons to one’s idols, it can sometimes become a burden, sinking a career before it even begins, points not lost on Coric.
Speaking to Roma TV, Coric opened up about these comparison:
In Croatian interviews, I am always compared to Zvonimir Boban, Robert Prosinecki or Luka Modric. But I can’t say that I am like Modric. I just can’t say it! I’d like one day to be like him and it’s such a pleasure when people say I play like him.
Gotta love that reponse. Coric was humble, deferential, and realistic, so at the very least, he’s not letting the parallels get to his head. Coric went on to speak about his developmental curve, citing his time in Salzburg as instrumental to his growth in the game.
Coric then spoke about his first impressions of Roma and his new teammates:
I get along with William Bianda, we spend a lot of time together. I want to thank Daniele De Rossi, as he’s such a big, big, big player. He always asks me if I need anything, if I’m OK, tells me to take a break, but I am young and can’t complain.
This is a big club, so when I heard Roma, I just said yes. I didn’t think too much, I just said yes. It’s going up and a very, very big club. I will be happy if I am part of the team. It’s important to train hard and I just want to be a part of the team.
By any measure, Luka Modric is one of the best ten players in the world, and certainly top of the heap in terms of midfielders, so any kid compared to him is bound to come up short, so Coric’s perspective on this comparison should ensure his head remains its normal size.
Whether or not Coric reaches those lofty heights is anyone’s guess, but we can safely say he’s found himself in the ideal landing spot. Coric not only gets to learn and develop along side similarly hyped prospects, but he’s under no pressure to produce immediately. With Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Bryan Cristante and Maxime Gonalons all ahead of him in the pecking order, Coric can develop and adapt to Serie A at his own pace.
And hey, who knows, if he really is the next Luka Modric, Coric will break his way into that rotation in no time.