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A journalist asked Luka Modric to "never retire" before calling him one of the "finest" players he's ever covered during a wholesome moment at Monday's press conference in Leipzig.

Croatia suffered untold heartache in their final Group B game after second-half substitute Mattia Zaccagni netted a 98th minute equaliser for defending champions Italy.

Zlatko Dalic's side are not yet out of Euro 2024 as they cling on to the possibility of being one of the four best third-placed teams of the six groups.

But after Monday's full-time whistle, Player of the Match winner Luka Modric looked defeated as he spoke to the media.

After labelling football “cruel and merciless” in his post-match press conference, he added: "It's hard when you lose like this to find the words to describe how you feel. Of course, we need to bounce back. But that's the way it is."

Modric, who found the back of the net after missing a penalty, also opened up on his future with the Croatia national team.

Image credit: Getty
Image credit: Getty

The midfielder became the oldest goalscorer in European Championship history when he found the back of the net against Italy, aged 38 years and 289 days.

"I'd like to keep playing forever, but there probably will come a time when I must hang up my boots," he said. "I'll keep playing on, but I don't know for how much longer."

Soon, an Italian journalist from the media circle decided to pay tribute to Modric in what turned out to be a wholesome exchange.

"I just wanted to say this to you," said journalist Francesco Repice. "I'd like to ask you to never retire from your playing career because you are one of the finest players I have ever commentated on. Thank you."

Modric, who was visibly moved by the comments, responded: "Grazie. Thank you very much for this wonderful tribute, right from the bottom of my heart I thank you."

He added: "I would also like to keep playing forever but there probably will be a time when I have to hang up my boots. I'll keep playing on, I don't know for how much longer, but thank you very much for your words."

Image credit: Getty
Image credit: Getty

Those in the BBC studio were full of praise for Modric after the full-time whistle.

"It is hard to watch as we're wondering is this Luka Modric's last game for Croatia?" said Wayne Rooney. "It is hard to take and he has been such a great player."

Micah Richards added: "He has everything that you want from your midfielder - character, skill, flare, all the words for him. It's a sad day for him because it looks like he was going to be the hero and now it’s all gone away."

Featured Image Credit: Hayters TV

Topics: Luka Modric, Croatia, Italy