Luka Modric has decided to play on for Croatia after the veteran captain helped his team to bronze at the Qatar World Cup.
That could mean Modric remains at the heart of the Croatia midfield at Euro 2024, by which time he will be approaching his 39th birthday.
Real Madrid playmaker Modric is not looking quite that far ahead for now, but crucially he has not ruled out extending his career for his country through to that point.
The first step for Modric will be a tilt with his country at the Nations League Finals in the Netherlands next year, with Croatia joined in that four-team tournament by the hosts, plus Italy and Spain.
Thrilled with another World Cup medal, after a silver four years ago in Russia, Modric told beIN SPORTS: “This medal is very important for us, for me, for Croatia as a national team and as a country.
“We confirm with this medal that Croatia is playing an important role in the world of football, and we are leaving Qatar as winners.
“About my future, I don’t know if I will be at the Euros in Germany. I need to go step by step.
“I’m enjoying the national team, I feel happy, I still think I can perform on a high level, and I want to continue at least until the Nations League, and then after there’ll be more time to think about the Euros.
“But now it’s go step by step and continue at least until the Nations League, and after we will see.”
Luka Modric plays in (probably) his last World Cup game for Croatia.
He finished with more touches than any of his team-mates. Standard stuff.
— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst)
There had been concern in some quarters that Modric would retire from international football after this World Cup, but coach Zlatko Dalic expressed optimism he would play on through to the 2024 European finals in Germany.
Now, after Saturday’s 2-1 win over Morocco in the third-place play-off, Dalic’s wish is close to becoming a reality.
Croatia have Wales, Armenia, Turkey and Latvia in their Euro 2024 qualifying group, and they would be strongly favoured to come through that and reach the finals.
It remains to be seen whether Dejan Lovren plays on, with the 33-year-old centre-back left with some thinking to do about his own future.
Lovren said getting a World Cup bronze was “something special” and paid tribute to Modric, his long-time colleague in the national team.
“I get emotional, because it’s for us the last World Cup, and I lived so many great memories with him,” Lovren said.
He said it was “an honour” to play in the company of such a top performer, with Modric having won the Ballon d’Or award after Croatia’s run to the 2018 World Cup final.
Lovren even said Modric had proven himself a superior performer to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the latter stages of World Cups.
Messi may have something to say about that after Sunday’s final, when Argentina take on France.
“He’s better than them in these moments,” Lovren said of Modric. “There’s not too many players who took the silver and the bronze.
“He can be proud and he knows that. He’s a special guy.”
As for his own future, with a view to the next Euros, former Liverpool defender Lovren said: “I wish I can tell you what will happen in two years. I’m just enjoying this moment, and we will see.”