One of the chaps in the row behind us at White Hart Lane was once attempting to extol the virtues of Luka Modric. Fumbling for the words to express his admiration, he eventually said: 'He just, I dunno, when he has the ball at his feet, he just… he glides'.
'Glides' is quite an unusual word for a football fan to use. And so, of course, it was seized upon. For around a year, whenever our number 14 got the ball, this bloke's fellow season ticket holders would all gleefully shout 'Go on Modric, glide, my son, glide!'
They did it to rib their mate, of course, but they also did it because they knew he was spot on. Luka did glide. He beat people through touch and movement. He didn't look to stepover, or nutmeg or purely outpace. He lost markers simply by being more aware of space, of his own body, of the position and likely next movement of an opponent – all combined with sublime control.
He had the ability to execute the spectacular: there were raking cross field balls, the odd thunderbolt; but mostly, entirely appropriately, his brilliance came in small, subtle packages.
(The only drawback, he was appalling in front of goal; the guy finished like an asthmatic in a marathon.)
Now he's gone. Thankfully, I can't muster myself to care. I would have done, a while ago. Luka was my last footballing crush; a footballing crush defined as a player I watch above all others and long to perform and impress because in doing so he validates my love for him; I believe that he represents something about my club, about the way football should be played, and about me, probably.
It started with Hoddle, then Waddle, then Gascoigne, I even had a bit of a thing with Anderton in the early '90s, but neither of us like to talk about it. Since then, I've fallen in love less easily. There was Berbatov, of course, but I think that may have been lust. I knew he'd treat me badly in the end. And I'm still not sure if I enjoyed it or not.
Then along came Luka. Skinny, scruffy, little Luka. He looked as if he should play with his socks round his ankles. He was pretty much perfect for me. And I was in love again. Unlike all the other affairs, though, this one didn't end when he left me/us, it ended because, well, you can't love a woman if you don't love women. So when football suddenly seemed bleak and soulless and the scales fell from my eyes, Modric and me were just a casualty of that break-up. Now jog on, rat face.