Luka Modric has his cheeks roaring. “It would have been a massive loss,” he says. “And when Cristiano was going. Yet the past is impossible. It’s football, it’s football.”

Modric has faced Lionel Messi 21 times and is the only player to beat him to the Ballon d’Or since 2008 other than Cristiano Ronaldo. If he leaves he knows what it will entail.

“If anything happens that’s going to be a big loss for the league’s reputation,” he said.

“But we need to move forward. Other players are going to become stars. Once Ronaldo left, the same thing happened, Real Madrid’s life went on without him and Barcelona and La Liga will have the same without Messi.”

Real Madrid needed two sacked coaches after Ronaldo, and the return of the old one to get back on their feet, a recovery not yet complete as seen by a second consecutive Champions League exit last 16.

The departure of Messi, also his unhappiness, would give Madrid an opening not only to win La Liga again but also to create its own time of dominance in Spain.

The first move is to defend the title which they won in July.

“We don’t have a young team but we have an experienced team,” Modric says.

“We have young players, who are going to get better. I don’t know if we’re going to buy players, but we have enough quality even if it remains like this. We have done it at La Liga and we know that we can do it again. We came back so inspired, after the suspension. We have missed football, we have missed games to win. We had worked so hard, I think we were the strongest team in the league physically and that’s why we won. It was my second title in La Liga and I would like to win more.”

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