Real Madrid's game against Villarreal last weekend was not the first time this season the Bernabeau crowd stood and applauded the efforts of Luka Modric, and it certainly won't be the last.
The unsung hero of the Madrid team is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves for the performances he puts in week after week.
When the midfielder was at Tottenham, I strongly believed he was capable of playing for any club in the world. He ran the midfield in every game he played, his low centre of gravity, his vision and his technical ability all contributed to Spurs fans believing he was the best player at the club.
I myself have been to White Hart Lane many times over the last five years and Modric is definitely the best player I have seen play. Everyone knew his range of passing was excellent, but what people didn't see, and now are, is the fantastic work rate he puts in.
It's rare for a creative player in the modern game to work so hard. He runs up and down for 90 minutes and has been on the pitch for virtually every kick of the ball in La Liga this year, becoming a key figure in Real's climb back to the top of the league.
Boss Carlo Ancelotti has been the latest to lavish the praise on the Croatian. He has spoken all season about balance, and this is something Modric certainly provides. He can play in a conventional central-midfield position alongside Xabi Alonso or in a deep-lying role, as he did to great effect in the Villarreal game.
It was the umpteenth time this season that Real’s best moments were also Luka’s best moments, such is the importance of him to the side. His passing is excellent, the ball sticks to his feet as he runs with it, and his retaining of possession allow the likes of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo to do their work in the final third.
I had but one criticism of Modric during his time at Spurs - he didn't get on the scoresheet enough. He only scored 13 goals in four years at Spurs, a tally which I thought stopped him from being considered as one of the best in the world, but I soon came to realise this was not because he was any less of a player than the stars in the Barcelona or Bayern Munich midfield.
It was because Modric is a different player to most others. Unlike Ozil, Mata, Silva and Iniesta, he does most of his work around the half way line and while for some that is a problem, for Modric it highlights his class and importance. He plays the game unlike anyone else today, like he is still playing on the streets in Croatia.
At the start of last season, Modric was named as the worst summer signing by the Spanish press. But to me the fee of around £30m was an absolute bargain. In today's climate, a top player often commands a fee of £40m plus, and I think he's certainly worth that.
I wonder how many will be saying that now? Very few, I imagine.
More likely is a cohesion on what he's called beck home. In his native land he is known as the ‘little magician’ and with good reason. In my opinion, as well as many others in the game, Modric is one of the finest midfielders there is.
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