2018 Ballon d'Or winner Luka Modric claims that the Real Madrid squad always knew that they would continue winning even after the departure of Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. It took Los Blancos a few years to claim their 34th La Liga trophy, but Modric says that it's all thanks to their work ethic during lockdown.

"While we were confined, we all trained," Modric told Sportske Novosti. "I was in touch with teammates and noticed that they were all working with some extra motivation," he added.

In the interview that was also shared by Marca, the Croatian star said that the lockdown gave the Real Madrid players extra hunger and motivation to return to playing football. They all took advantage of the long hiatus to prepare for the league's restart. The results were clear, as Los Blancos remained undefeated for the 11 games they played upon the resumption.

Real Madrid last won La Liga in 2017, and this is their first major title since Ronaldo left for Juventus back in 2018. The team took a double blow after both Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane announced their surprise departure after winning three consecutive UEFA Champions League titles in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The team suffered a slump in the 2018-19 season, but Modric insists that they always knew they could still win titles. In fact, he personally did so well in 2018 that he managed to break Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's Ballon d'Or dominance.

"It is not necessary to discuss how important Cristiano was for Real Madrid, but I must say that we were not overwhelmed by the fact that he was not there in the sense that we could not have the same ambitions," said Modric. "We were convinced that that we would continue to win without him," he added.

True enough, Zidane returned at the end of the 2018 season with a promise to focus on La Liga. Just over a year later, the La Liga trophy has found its way to the capital. Real Madrid will now be focused on staging a comeback against Manchester City in the second leg of their round-of-16 tie in the UEFA Champions League. Madrid currently trails 1-2. The second leg is scheduled to take place on August 7 at the Etihad Stadium.

Zinedine Zidane
Zidane is in his second spell as Real coach AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS