Croatia’s run to their second World Cup semi-final has largely been inspired by the form of captain Luka Modric.
The Real Madrid star excelled for his club as they won a third Champions League in a row in 2017-18 and has continued to impress in Russia, helping his side to reach the last four for the first time since 1998.
The 32-year-old has been hailed by many onlookers as the best midfielder at the tournament and, consequently, the finest player in his position in the world. But is that a fair suggestion?
Opta data compared Modric from last season and at the World Cup with four of the other leading central midfielders on the planet, all of whom play in the same multi-faceted role as the Croatia skipper: Kevin De Bruyne, Toni Kroos, Paul Pogba and David Silva.
MODRIC THE LINCHPIN
Modric and Kroos leap to the top of the leaderboard when it comes to passing, though.
Modric’s passing accuracy last season was at 90 per cent in all competitions, higher than that of De Bruyne (83), Silva (89) and Pogba (85). Kroos is top of the pile on a hugely impressive 93.
Madrid’s duo also posted the highest accuracy of passes ending in the attacking third of the pitch, with Kroos on 88 per cent and Modric on 84. De Bruyne was the lowest, on 75.
GETTING STUCK IN
None of these players are allowed to neglect the defensive side of their game, which is reflected in some seriously strong statistics.
Modric won 185 duels last season, two more than Kroos and 31 more than Silva, but he is some way down on De Bruyne (251) and Pogba (273). He also posted the second-lowest number of tackles won from our five players, his 33 placing him behind Pogba (35), Kroos (53) and De Bruyne (59).
However, the former Tottenham man has a clear edge in interceptions. He managed 55 for Madrid in 2017-18, 12 more than nearest competitor De Bruyne.
WHAT ABOUT THE WORLD CUP?
Modric has two goals and one assist in Russia, putting him top of the pile (De Bruyne is nearest with one goal and an assist). He has also created 14 chances, bettered only by De Bruyne on 16. Passing-wise, his accuracy rate of 86 per cent puts him above De Bruyne (81) and Pogba (78), but behind Silva (87) and Kroos (93). He is also third in standings for passing accuracy in the final third as reported by One football.com.
On the defensive side of things, Modric has won 35 duels, which is bettered only by Pogba (39). And, although he is behind Pogba and Kroos for tackles won, he has made at least three more interceptions than any of the other players in this list.
All things considered, it is hard to argue against Modric being the most effective all-round midfielder at the World Cup, and perhaps the world.