LUKA Modric is on top of the world after winning the Ballon d'Or but his upbringing could not have been tougher.
When the Croatia and Real Madrid superstar was just six-years-old, his entire existence was rocked by the shooting of his beloved granddad at the hands of militant Serbian thugs and he was forced to live life as a refugee in his war-torn homeland.
29 Luka Modric endured a tough childhood
Collect29 Growing up in Zadar, Modric won accolades for his local team
Getty – Contributor29 The burned-out former house Modric lived in with his grandfather
But despite such hardship, that didn't stop the ambitious kid from going on to become one of the best players on the planet and, now aged 33, a global superstar.
On Monday night, he was voted the best player on the planet, ending the decade of dominance of the award by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
On December 8, 1991, during Croatia's war of independence, violent Serbian militia stormed Modrici, a small village near the Velebit mountains in northern Dalmatia and wrought terror on Croatian families who hadn't escaped.
One of those caught in the crossfire was Luka Modric Snr, who was walking his cattle up an abandoned street when he was cornered by a group of Serbians who brutally executed him along with five other locals.
The idea was to send a message to other Modrici residents that they must leave their town behind, but it robbed the future Real Madrid midfielder of his grandfather.
Getty – Contributor29 Modrici was where Modric was raised before his family fled to Zadar
Collect29 An early football club registration card from Modric's childhood
29 When Modric was just 6-years-old his granddad was murdered by Serbian militia
AFP or licensors29 As a boy, Modric was forced to leave his hometown and became a refugee
Ron Haviv29 Many Croatians were forced out of their villages by Serbian forces
It hit Luka hard.
He was being raised by Luka Modric Snr while his parents Stipe and Radojka worked long hours in a knitwear factory to support the family financially.
Amazing footage emerged during last summer's World Cup of a young Luka herding goats.
After the incident, his parents were forced to leave Modrici and they sought refuge at the Hotel Iz in the town of Zadar.
I was six years old. These were really hard times. I remember them vividly but it’s not something you want to remember or think about
Without any electricity or running water, the sound of grenades and bullets became a daily occurrence for little Luka and his sister Jasmina, not to mention avoiding landmines potentially buried around any corner.
But that didn't stop the boy from kicking a small, punctured football around the hotel car park, dreaming that one day he would be able to leave his war-torn existence behind.
Getty – Contributor29 The family home Modric grew up in still stands today
Toni Hnojčik29 Families were torn apart, while an estimated 140,000 lost their lives during the war
AFP – Getty29 The town of Zadar became Modric's home when he was forced out of Modrici
Getty – Contributor29 Modric went from rags-to-riches through hard work and determination
Romeo Ibrišević29 The Yugoslav Civil War began in 1991 and ended in 2001
Getty – Contributor29 The town of Modrici is near Croatia's Velebit mountains
It's a rags-to-riches tale that's testament to the four-time Champions League winner's dedication and determination to succeed in the wake of an awful tragedy.
Modric rarely talks about his hardship, but when he signed for Spurs back in 2008, he briefly addressed the issues that blighted his childhood.
“When the war started we became refugees and it was a really tough time,” Modric revealed.
“I was six years old. These were really hard times. I remember them vividly but it’s not something you want to remember or think about.
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EPA29 Croatia's captain has led his team to the semi-finals of the World Cup, where they will play England
AFP – Getty29 Modric began his footballing education at Dinamo Zagreb
Getty – Contributor29 As a young teen, Modric starred in midfield for Dinamo Zagreb
Imre Szabo29 Serbian military volunteers were responsible for intimidating Croatian families
Christopher Morris29 Many children were affected by the events of the Yugoslav Civil War
Getty – Contributor29 Just a stones throwaway from Modric's abandoned home, a sign warns of the dangers of landmines nearby
“We lived in a hotel for many years as we struggled financially, but I always loved football. I remember my first shin pads had the Brazilian Ronaldo on them and I loved them.
“The war made me stronger, it was a very hard time for me and my family. I don’t want to drag that with me forever, but I don’t want to forget about it either.”
It's that mental toughness that has served Modric well during his career.
Don't forget we're talking about a man who missed a penalty in open play against Denmark but still stepped up in the shootout to send Croatia through in the World Cup in the summer.
AP:Associated Press29 Family man Modric has a son called Ivano
Getty Images – Getty29 Modric met his wife Vanja Bosnic in 2007 at the Mamic sports agency
Instagram @lukamodric1029 Ivan Rakitić and Luka Modric have formed a terrific midfield partnership for Croatia
He also took a pen in his country's second penalty shooutout win over Russia in the quarter-finals that ensured their semi-final berth.
However, when Modric was 10 years old he was written off by a number of coaches who thought he was too frail and shy to make it in the game.
Hajduk Split passed on him and it was only when Tomislav Basic, a coach for a team that Modric played for in Zadar, stepped in and used his contacts to get Luka a trial at Dinamo Zagreb.
From there his talent flourished, he went on to Tottenham and Real Madrid and is now a mainstay for both club and country, as well as being one of the most valuable footballers in the world.
PA:Press Association29 At Spurs, Luka Modric was a cult hero
Getty – Contributor29 In 2012, Modric moved to Real Madrid for a fee of £30m
Getty Images – Getty29 During his career with Real Madrid, Modric has lifted the Champions League four times
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And his personal life couldn't be much better either.
He married Vanja Bosnic, who also acts as his agent, in 2010 in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. The pair first met at Mamic sports agency, where she worked.
Modric's former Tottenham and Croatia team-mate Vedran Corluka was the best man at their wedding.
The couple's first child, son Ivano, was born just three weeks after their wedding.
29 Vanja Bosnic poses for a snap with son Ivano and daughters Ema and Sofia
Getty – Contributor29 Modric is recognised as one of the world's best players today
Instagram @lukamodric1029 Bosnic and Modric married in 2010 in Zagreb
Since then, they have had two daughters, five-year-old Ema and Sofia who was born last year.
Bosnic is said to have such an influence on his life, she was deemed to be the person responsible for orchestrating his £30m move to Real Madrid.
Modric's remarkable rise to the top of world football was confirmed when he won the Ballon d'Or.
No wonder his father Stipe was so emtional, saying: "I am the happiest and proudest father in the world.
"You are my genius. I can't find words."