Since 2012, The Guardian publishes a list of the 100 players who stood out the most in the year. The collective achievements with both their clubs and national teams, as well as their individual performance, are decisive factors in assembling the ranking. In 2021, two Croatian players have been included in the top 100 footballers of the year: Luka Modrić and Marcelo Brozović. You can check the full list here.
Despite the fact that the Croatian national team failed to repeat in EURO 2020 what they achieved in the last World Cup in Russia in 2018, they managed to secure their ticket to the next World Cup in 2022 in Qatar. In this way, Croatia finishes in 15th place in the last FIFA ranking of the year, being 11th in Europe.
But 2021 was, despite everything, a year of very good results for Croatian players around the continent. For example, Mateo Kovačić managed to lift his fourth Champions League, his first with Chelsea FC. However, the two Croatian players on The Guardian’s list were Real Madrid’s Luka Modrić and Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozović.
Photo: Davor Javorovic/PIXSELL
The historic captain of the Croatian national team continues to defend the Real Madrid crest with the same energy and passion as in the past decade, despite his 36 years. Years pass and the Zadar-born footballer continues to own his position in the white midfield, well ahead of young footballers who have come to the club in recent years such as Federico Valverde, Martin Odegaard, or Dani Ceballos. Luka is ranked 40th on the list, and The Guardian writes the following about his inclusion:
‘‘Ah, Luka, don’t ever go. At the start of last season it looked like he might, like time had finally caught up with him, like Madrid’s midfield was about to be renewed, and that was reflected in this list: he was 71st. But then he returned to the heart of everything good and this season he has been superb. Up 31 places – and he could be even further up than that. Aged 36, he’s still better than the rest. Just don’t say the word rest to him. “I feel happier when I’m playing,” he says.’’
Indeed, Luka did not get any title with Real Madrid at the end of the 2020/21 season, but he was chosen as the Player of the Season by the club and the fans. Likewise, in the course of this season (which is also taken into account when drawing up the list at the end of the year), Luka has been decisive in placing Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga table, much less in front of their eternal rivals, Atlético de Madrid and FC Barcelona. For his teammates, Luka continues to play as a promising youngster and that is, in addition to motivating, important for the team’s performance both in attack and defense.
Marcelo Brozović is the second national representative on the list of the 100 best footballers in 2021. The 29-year-old Zagreb-born midfielder won the Serie A title with his club, Inter Milan, thus breaking the dominance of his eternal rivals, Juventus, who had just won 9 Scudettos in a row. Brozović was in fact one of the determining players in Antonio Conte’s team, along with Nicolo Barella in midfield, and Lautaro Martínez and Romelu Lukaku in attack, all of them also included among the 100 best footballers of the year.
”Brozo” arrived on the neroazzurro team in 2015 from Dinamo Zagreb, and it has been the passage of time that has managed to forge his maturity as a footballer. Thus, the midfielder has gone from being a discreet player to one of the most notorious for his involvement both in defensive work, as well as when providing assists to his teammates and even scoring goals on his own.
About Brozovic, who was ranked 81st on the list, The Guardian wrote:
‘‘Antonio Conte defined Brozović as “the darling of the [Inter] team” that won the Scudetto for the first time since 2010. Even in a side that prided themselves on hard graft, the Croatian pushed himself further than the rest – covering more distance per game than any other player in Serie A last season. Yet Brozovic is much more than a domestique peddling away anonymously so that teammates can shine. His vision and incisive passing were fundamental to Inter’s fast-break approach under Conte, and remain so now that Simone Inzaghi is adapting the Nerazzurri to a more possession-focused approach.’’
Marcelo Brozović continues to be decisive in the functioning of the Italian team, and this is how they are currently positioned at the top of the Serie A table. Inter is currently working on the renewal of the Croatian midfielder’s contract, as they consider him as a fundamental piece of the neroazzurro project. It should be noted that the two Croatian players faced each other in the group stage of the Champions League, and both made it to the round of 16.
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