Luka Modric says that Zinedine Zidane told him he could win the Ballon d’Or within his first few weeks as Real Madrid boss.
The Frenchman replaced Rafael Benitez in the Bernabeu hotseat in January 2016, going on to win the Champions League in each of his three seasons at the club.
He left having clinched the third last summer, and that victory went a long way towards the Ballon d’Or success that Modric enjoyed on Monday , when he became the first player to beat Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to the award since 2007.
And Modric has revealed Zidane’s inspirational words.
“There wasn’t a specific moment where he told me: You can win it,” he told France Football after picking up the award.
“When I recounted all of the individual trophies that I’ve won this year and when I saw that I was among the 30 finalists, I began to believe it, but there’s one thing I’ll never forget.
“When Zidane became Madrid coach in January 2016, he called me to his office one day after training and told me how he saw me as a player and what he expected of me.
“He told me that I was an important player for him and, above all, that he saw me as a player who could win the Ballon d’Or.
“When someone like Zidane, with all of his personality and history, tells you that, it boosts your confidence.
“I admired him and respected him enormously as a player, he saw me as someone like himself, quiet and a bit shy, he expected me to express myself more on the pitch, to open up.
“He needed me to be a key part of the team in an era when we were truly playing well. Those words from Zidane helped me to go further in my play.
“Even in spite of his words, I didn’t begin to believe it.”