Mateo Kovacic backing Luka Modric to continue at top level for years to come

Mateo Kovacic has backed ‘incredible’ Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric to continue to ply his trade at the highest level at 40 as he tries to stop his close friend from ending Chelsea’s Champions League dreams this week.

Croatia’s teammates will line up on opposite sides when the Blues travel to the Bernabéu for the second leg of their quarter-final clash on Tuesday night.

Real hold a 3-1 lead after an impressive performance in west London last week that left champions Chelsea on the verge of elimination.

Modric, 36, played the entire match and remains a vital part of Carlo Ancelotti’s plans as the LaLiga giants go in search of an unrivaled 14th European Cup.

Kovacic has admired Modric for years, having played alongside him at Madrid and in Croatia, where the two became friends.

Asked how it felt to face the former Tottenham man, Kovacic replied: “It was nice and also difficult because we were losing and it’s never nice when you lose a game and have a hard time.

“But it was nice to see him and play against him. I always preferred to have him in my team, but at the moment we are against each other and we are ready to give our best tomorrow and try to get through.

“It is difficult to stop him because he is an incredible player. Obviously he is Croatian and I looked up to him when I was a kid playing for my favorite club, Dinamo Zagreb.

“Now, when we become good friends, I admire him even more: he is a great person, a great player and I am looking forward to playing against him again tomorrow.”

Kovacic, nine years Modric’s junior, believes his compatriot could still be playing among the game’s elite for years to come.

“He was always as good as he is now, for me, as far as I know, in the last five, six, seven years he is at the same level, which is unbelievable,” Kovacic added.

“Why is that good? It’s because he really likes football. He lives it every day. He is a professional and if he continues like this, I see him playing three, four more years at such a high level”.

Stopping Modric will give Chelsea a slim hope of turning around the deficit in Spain, something Kovacic says the players need to believe is a possibility.

“Of course we have our chances and we are motivated to do our best,” he said.

“We didn’t have our best game and the result is not good in the last game, but there is hope and we are motivated to give our best, so it will be a quality game and we are looking forward to it.”

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