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Modric is best football player in Europe, says Bilic

SoccerNews in European Championships 13 Jun 2008

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Tottenham have picked up a rare diamond who is better than Cristiano Ronaldo, if Croatia coach Slaven Bilic is to be believed.

Spurs's new signing Luca Modric pulled the strings and earned the man-of-the-match award as Croatia exposed Germany's weaknesses in a 2-1 victory here on Thursday.

And now the 22-year-old, who outshone Germany playmaker Michael Ballack, will set the Premier League alight according to Bilic.

Asked if Modric could become the player of the tournament, the coach insisted he didn't need to build his reputation any more.

“Luca is already a star even without this tournament,” said Bilic. “I keep saying to him every day that he's the best player in Europe.

“But he's not the only great player on our team, we have world class players and they prove it day in, day out, every day in training and in every match in each part of the pitch.”

Modric, who made his name in the Bosnian league, was reportedly a target for many top European clubs but it was Tottenham who won the race for his signature in a deal worth reportedly something between 20 and 25 million euros from Dinamo Zagreb.

And his form here so far in the tournament suggests that Tottenham were right to beat off reported competition from Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Newcastle for his signature.

Right now, though, Modric is hoping to guide Croatia into the latter stages of the tournament and there is a growing and palpable feeling that the former Yugoslav republic is not just here to make up the numbers.

Croatia's previous best result in international competition was reaching the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup in France, during which they beat Germany 3-0 in the quarter-finals.

But this victory delighted Modric just as much as that one did the Croatian stars of the time.

“We are overjoyed by this win. We started off playing tough, playing the way we wanted to,” he said.

“We wanted to exert pressure on our opponents so as not to let them develop their own game.

“We wanted to show that the criticism we received after our first match was unjustified.

“Now we are able to show that we're very strong and can rightly aspire to a great result.”

Croatia played far better than they had in their opening match, an unspectacular 1-0 victory over co-hosts Austria in which they were holding on during the second half.

They looked anything but potential winners during that match but it was a different side that took to the pitch against Germany and they dominated throughout.

“We're not surprised by how many chances we created, we think we played an excellent match, we moved a lot and when we do that we're very dangerous and can create many chances against any side, not only Germany,” he added.

“We're very satisfied. We still have to play Poland so we're not in the quarter-finals yet.

“We'll see how Austria and Poland finish but I think the Czech Republic would be good opponents for us in the quarter-finals.”

That shows how confident the Croats are feeling but with Modric pulling their strings, it's easy to see why.

This side, who beat England home and away in their qualifying group, could rival the class of 1998 and Modric might just be as good as Zvonimir Boban, Davor Suker or Alan Boksic.

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