Luka Modric continues to shine at 37 years old. The “Golden Ball” will be in Qatar at his last World Cup, but Croatia and the world of football must not despair. In the shadow of the star from Real Madrid, a new midfielder is growing who has all the potential to follow in the footsteps of the brilliant “ten” from Zadar.
Croatia and the DNA of midfielders
Asanovic, Boban, Prosinecki… These are just a few of the names that have brought fame to Croatian football in recent decades. And in the generation that became world vice-champion, and now still proudly holds the flag at international level, we have a series of exceptional midfielders. Rakitic, Kovacic or Brozovic are still developing at the highest level, and from behind come two other talented youngsters who are at a great price. Kacavenda (19 years old, Lokomotiva Zagreb) and Sucic (20, Salzburg) are the “young” wolves on the agenda of the big clubs.
But, the flag-bearer of the post-Modric era is announced to be Lovro Majer. Currently, the 24-year-old is slowly but surely rising to take over from Luka.
Product of fierce, but also creative Zagreb
Lovro Majer is a “purger”, as the Zagreb natives are called. The city on the Sava is a traditional source of Central European football quality, and Majer follows the line of brilliant “tens” in the history of Dinamo Zagreb, such as Lamza, Mlinaric, Boban and Modric.
Born on January 17, 1998, Majer started football at Dinamo, but after some time he moved to Lokomotiva, another productive club in the city at youth level. The highlight is that Lovro debuted in the first league even against Dinamo. The move to the most prestigious club in Croatia was, however, a matter of time: even during the World Cup in Rusia, he signed with the “blues”, initially being taken as Dani Olmo’s reserve.
Almost following in the footsteps of… Prosinecki
It is already well known how Robert Prosinecki left Dinamo for the rival Steaua Roșie Belgrade due to some animosity with the famous coach Miroslav Blazevic. The highlight is that Majer was also close to leaving shortly after he came to Dinamo, the coach at the time, Nenad Bjelica, not being too pleased with him. But, he was “saved” by the technician Zoran Mamic, the one who gave the necessary confidence to the one who in 2017 was introduced by “Four Four Two” in the list of the 100 most promising players in the world.
Rennes, the step to the big stage
Throughout the period spent in “Maksimir”, Majer was tempted with different options from abroad, but on August 26, 2021, he made the move to the most suitable club for his football development: Rennes. The Ligue 1 side paid 12 million euros plus bonuses for the Croatian, and the first season was a perfect one. At the end of the season, he was voted in the best 11 of the championship, and the club from Brittany, known for its ability to launch quality footballers, reached the Europa League groups.
The moment that definitively confirmed him in the French league was on December 5, 2021. Then, in a 5-0 victory for the Bretons against St. Etienne provided three assists to the same player, becoming the first Ligue 1 player to do so since 2006/2027, the first season monitored by Opta.
And yet, what is his natural position?
It is not only the physical resemblance that brings Majer closer to Modric, but also the discussion of his true position. And Modric was the classic number 10 at Dinamo, and later he gravitated to the midfield, with the rise to Tottenham and Real Madrid. Not very fast, Majer excels in elegance, technique, but also physical ability.
Number 8? Number 10? Interestingly, Majer, although highly rated, is not often used in the starting formation when Bruno Genesio starts Rennes’ matches in the 4-4-2 formation. Asked in the spring what he wants to play for the national team, the 24-year-old footballer said: “I can play any position, for the national team I am ready to do anything. When I’m used on the right wing, for example, I really like to go into the center”.
The goal against Denmark, the sign
Croatia won their Nations League group, and Majer’s goal in a crucial 2-1 draw with Denmark is a real splendour. The shot from the edge of the box, with the left, to the left of the Scandinavian goalkeeper, is in the elegant note of the great Croatian midfielders in whose footsteps Majer follows, as we have always mentioned.
Atletico was rejected by Rennes in the summer, despite the 40 million euros offered by “Los Colchoneros”. Barcelona and Arsenal, teams who crave midfielders like him, are interested in buying him. Majer’s share is on the rise, but Qatar is next for the midfielder. After which Modric will hand over the baton to him. But maybe it won’t just be a passing of the baton – maybe Qatar will already be the all-rounder for one of the most promising appearances at this final tournament.