Few would disagree Luka Modric deserved to win FIFA’s ‘The Best’ award in September ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah.
The midfielder enjoyed an incredible 2017-18 season, winning every competition in which Real Madrid competed excluding La Liga and Copa del Rey.
At international level, Modric was named the player of the tournament at the 2018 World Cup as he drove Croatia to their first final before succumbing to France in Moscow.
The 33-year-old could be forgiven for expecting his successes to roll on upon returning to Madrid, but fate had other ideas.
Los Blancos struggled to find their groove under Julien Lopetegui throughout his two months at the helm, the nadir of his reign coming in his final outing - El Classico.
Madrid were battered 5-1 by Barcelona at the Nou Camp, marking their third consecutive defeat and fourth in five matches.
THE SOLARI EFFECT
However, Santiago Solari was appointed to get the La Liga giants back on track - and he’s succeeded up till this point.
Madrid are on a three-game winning streak in all competitions, and Modric believes they can return to their best under the Argentine boss.
"We want to improve, because we didn't start the season well. But it's important how we finish it," he said.
"We will work hard to improve. We want to achieve the goals that are always there for the team.
"I hope to win some titles and above all improve our play. And with the new coach, I am sure that we are going to have a good season and will improve.”
While the going is good for now, it doesn’t mean the criticism levelled at Modric earlier in the campaign has been forgotten by those affected.
Last week the former Tottenham man was described by Spanish media outlet Sport as “a shell past self” and “slow, without ideas, passive”.
Their assessment even went as far as suggesting: “He wanted to go to Inter in the summer and maybe Madrid should have let him.”
ZLATKO DALIC'S THEORY
Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic has taken note of such reports and claims there’s a reason for the vitriol directed at his captain more so than others contributing to Real’s slump.
"We talked a few days ago," the 52-year-old told reporters, per Goal.
"Luka is aware that in football there are oscillations, that after playing brilliantly for a whole year, he cannot always be in shape and always be the best.
"When Madrid loses a match, then they look for the culprit among the foreigners, so they blame Luka, [Toni] Kroos or someone else.
"At the end of the day, Luka is the best player in the world.”
There could be an element of truth in how Dalic views the situation and well done to him for protecting his player.
However, Modric has achieved enough in his career to not let the views of the media get to him.