GARETH SOUTHGATE says Luka Modric is the player he most wishes was English after the World Cup.
The England boss was asked by fan Dan Rigler who most impressed him among the opposition in Russia – and he went for Modric, the Croatian playmaker who masterminded the semi-final win over the Three Lions.
Southgate said: “There are some wonderful players in the world and I think we all recognised the level at which Luka Modric played throughout the tournament.
“His experiences of winning with Real Madrid – last year he won the Champions League and got to the World Cup final – that’s the level of player we’re talking about and I voted him as the best player in the world last season for that reason.”
England will have to deal with Modric again in the Nations League after being drawn in a group with the Balkan nation and Spain.
Southgate himself is learning to deal with his huge popularity.
As part of a feature in the match programme, he was asked by supporter Harris Abbott for his feelings about the song sung by England fans in praise of him to the tune of Atomic Kitten’s “Whole Again”.
The England manager said: “It was mind-blowing at the time, as the first I heard of it was when the head of security came back from a trip out to one of the cities and tried to explain what he’d heard and what was going on.
“I didn’t really believe him at first, but then I heard it myself at the next game.
“I really enjoyed the interaction with the England fans though. I’m a proud Englishman and for me, a lot of England fans’ memories of me were probably negative ones, so to change that narrative was a lovely thing to be able to experience.”
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