"I was bossing midfields before you were born, mate."

An XI of world-class ballers born after Luka Modric’s professional debut

On the 10th August 2003, tornadoes tore across the Great Plains of America, Finland reported its first confirmed case of SARS, and one of the game’s greatest-ever midfielders made his professional debut for Zrinji Mostar.

Luka Modric is still doing regular madnesses for Real Madrid, almost 21 years later. Ballon d’Or sitting pretty in a trophy cabinet that, at this point, simply cannot be structurally sound.

Mortifyingly, there are now plenty of unbelievably talented footballers doing the business across some of the world’s top leagues who hadn’t even been born when Modric played his first professional game.

This incredible XI were just a twinkle in their respective dads’ eyes in August 2003. We’ve gone for a pretty attacking 3-5-2.

GK: Gabriel Slonina

Chelsea’s 19-year-old keeper has already made his international debut for USMNT, which, when you think about it, is nuts. According to research quoted in The Times, the median age of goalkeepers playing in the Premier League in 2024 is 30.

CB: Pau Cubarsi

We cannot believe we’re typing this, but Pau Cubarsi turned 17 in January 2024. How?! The La Masia graduate plays like a veteran. A 35-year-old head on a teenager’s body. He’s the anomaly that proves the rule. He is the centre-back Neo. 

He looked Morpheus in the eye and took the Blaugrana pill.

CB: Giorgio Scalvini

Atalanta’s 20-year-old, 6’4″ ball-playing centre-back is already a regular Italy international.

The bambino from Brescia is going straight to the very top, and you can quote us on that. He was linked with Manchester United in the January transfer window, but if he does leave Bergamo, he will not come cheap.

CB: Ousmane Diomande

Sporting CP’s dominating centre-back is perfectly happy driving forward with the ball, charging out of defence and getting his team up the pitch. Leones fans had better enjoy him whilst they can, because he’s very unlikely to be in Lisbon come the start of the 2024-25 season.

With Ruben Amorim also looking set to vacate the throne at the Jose Alvalade Stadium at the end of the season, you’ve got to feel for those Sporting fans.

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TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Real Madrid’s XI from Luka Modric’s debut v Barcelona?

RM: Lamine Yamal

What were you doing on 13th July 2007? In the UK, Rihanna’s Umbrella was number one in the music charts, if that helps put you to get your bearings.

Do you know what Lamine Yamal was doing? Being born. Each passing day brings us closer to death.

A lot of young players have been touted as the successor to Lionel Messi, so we’re not going to suggest that, but Barca’s right winger looks pretty decent so far, doesn’t he?

CM: Kobbie Mainoo

It’s crazy to think of where Manchester United might be this season if it wasn’t for Bruno Fernandes and the supernova-like emergence of Kobbie Mainoo.

The England international has dragged Man United out of the mire several times this season, and has been a calming presence when all around him were panicking. Wild for someone who has only just turned 19.

CM: Gavi

Another La Masia veteran (and we use the term loosely), Gavi has had a rough season with injuries but, make no mistake, he’s the real deal and he’ll be back.

The teenage sensation took Xavi’s number 6 shirt at Barca, is managed by the man himself, and their names are only one letter apart. Just saying… makes you think *Le Tissier meme*.

CM: Warren Zaire-Emery

Zaire-Emery has played the fourth-most minutes in PSG’s outfield squad this season, behind only Kylian Mbappe, Vitinha, and Achraf Hakimi. Fair to say the teenage midfielder has been vital to the Parisians.

His ceiling is absolutely sky-high, and he’s only going to get better.

This guy made his Arsenal debut in 2022 aged 15.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name the 20 youngest Premier League appearance makers since 2000?

LM: Alejandro Garnacho

Okay, we mentioned Bruno Fernandes and Kobbie Mainoo earlier, but Garnacho has been similarly important to the Red Devils in 2023-24. It’s been a real breakout season for the Argentinian, capped off by scoring one of the best goals any of us have ever seen.

Still… those stripey eyebrows, man.

FW: Endrick

The future Galactico cemented his place in the public consciousness of the wider world when he got himself on the scoresheet in a friendly against England, and then again in the following game versus Spain. R9 2.0…? Maybe.

FW: Mathys Tel

Tel has played a pretty big part in Bayern Munich’s season and, if you’ve ever played Football Manager, you’ll know this kid comes very highly rated.

The French forward rounds off our XI of crazy-talented ballers who were born after Modric started making a living from football.

What a dreadful thing.