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Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic has backed Real Madrid star Luka Modric is play into his 40s after a sparkling display against the Blues in the Champions League.

Modric, 36, was at his imperious best alongside Casemiro and Toni Kroos in the heart of the Real midfield, with striker Karim Benzema hitting a hat-trick in a 3-1 win that puts Carlo Ancelotti’s side on course for the semi-finals.

Kovacic was a second-half substitute at Stamford Bridge so was able to see Modric perform at first hand, and he is certain his Croatia international team-mate can play at the top level for a while yet.

Asked what it was like to come up against Modric, Kovacic said:

It was nice and also difficult because we were losing and it is never nice when you are losing a game and you have a hard time.

But it was nice to see him and to play against him. I always preferred to have him on my team but in this moment we are against each other and we are ready to show our best tomorrow and to try to go through.

It’s difficult to stop him because he’s an amazing player. Obviously, he is Croatian and I admired him when I was a child and he played for my favourite club which was in Dinamo Zagreb.

Now, when we become good friends I admire him even more – a great person, great player and I’m looking forward to play against him tomorrow again.

He was always as good as he is now, for me as far as I know in the last five, six or seven years he’s on the same way level, which is amazing.

Asked what was the secret behind Modric’s consistently high performance levels, Kovacic added:

It is because he loves football so much. He lives it every day.

He’s a professional and if he keeps going like this, I see him still playing three, four more years on such a high level.

Despite the 3-1 deficit Kovacic still believes holders Chelsea can turn the tie around in Tuesday’s second leg at Santiago Bernabeu.

He said:

Of course we have our chances and we are motivated to show our best.

We didn’t have our best game and the result is not good in the last game but there is hope and we are motivated to try our best so it will be a quality game and we are looking forward.

By Amara

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