Moscow (AFP) – Luka Modric has taken an extra way to the World Cup final – from flying home as a child during Croatia's independence war to the global superstar status.
Croatia's captain has also overcome the challenge of being a relatively fragile bodybuilding to become one of the world's best players.
"A boy education under shell and growing up during war knows no fear," said Maria Buljat, Modric's friend and childmate at NK Zadar, AFP.
"It's ugly to go carefully, but eventually he showed how strong he is in all situations. All of this helps him to worry and become one of the best in the world."
A career that saw eventually taking him to four Champions League winners with Real Madrid via Tottenha m Hotspur in the Premier League and Croatia's biggest club Dinamo Zagreb, began on the Adriatic coast in Zadar, where Modric took refuge from Serbian forces.
"He is mentally very strong character," said Josip Bajlo, his former coach.
Modric finished his club season by lifting the Champions League title, but Croatia's building to the World Cup was overshadowed by a legal case.
The midfielder was charged in March for alleged false testimony that he gave in the case that Croatia's football Kingpin Zdravko Mamic was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.
Modric's accusation must still formally be approved by a Croatian court and he is not facing arrest.
But his performances in Russia –
– "The Most Complete Player" –
Modric's technology has never been in doubt. However, questions were asked whether a skinny child who grew up to 1.73 meters high could hold himself against higher, more powerful opponents in the central midfield.
"You do not have to be a strapping ladder to play football," said Modric. "I can only say that I have never doubted myself, no matter what others said."
Modric has shown its physical strength in leading Croatia through three extra periods against Denmark, Russia and England to become the smallest country for 68 years to reach a World Cup final.
"He is the most complete player in the world," formerly said Croatia's coach Slaven Bilic. "For I'm Luka the best midfielder in the world for the past five to six years. "
Modric has for many years been an undervalued factor in Madrid's success due to Cristiano Ronaldo's goals and has now also emerged as a strong challenger to break it decade-long grip Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have had at Ballon d 'Or.
Croatia's defense Dejan Lovren said earlier in the tournament that Modric may already have become the world's best player if he has been Spanish or German.
Modric said in his characteristic self-adhesive style that he had no interest in individual awards when the World Cup is at stake.
"He has something slowly disappearing and rarely seen on the plan … a football mortality", former Croatian international Mario Stanic, a hero on the page that reached the semi-final in 1998, told the newspaper Sportske Novosti.
"It's when the biggest or the best that likes to think about itself. This is the cornerstone of whi ch Luka Modric built his sanctuary and became a football god."
On Sunday, four million Croatians will ask their humility Hero will have enough energy to send them to heaven.