NEWS | 25/05/2021“Nine years of dreams and hopefully the tenth season will also be special”, added the Croatian midfielder.
"It means a lot to me. It makes me very proud and will mean that I'll have been here for almost 10 years. That's incredible, something I didn't even expect. I came here when I was almost 27 and the last thing I expected was to be at this great club for so long, the demands here are so high and you always have to be at the very best level to deserve to stay here. I'm very happy and proud to remain at this club for another year".
The secrets of his longevity
"I take care of myself every day as much as possible because I know that in a footballer's career, even though it's longer now, you have to remain focussed, train well, recover, eat well and rest well. That's the reason I think I'm still able to play at the level I've done this year. Being at this club requires you to do your best and I'm going to give it my all for as long as I'm here".
Learnings from Real Madrid
"This club and this jersey teach you to never give up. We have been through moments in which we've fought hard, we've never given up, and we've won games and titles in the last few minutes. That's the most important thing: to believe in yourself and never give up".
"It's an incredible achievement. If you picture what you want to win in your career this is the icing on the cake. It was something amazing, special and unforgettable to win it at a time when Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi and other great players were always winning it. It's a memory I'll have for the rest of my life, holding the trophy at the Bernabéu and seeing the fans applauding and chanting my name. I get emotional talking about these things".
"I can't imagine how proud my father was. I put myself in his shoes and his tearful display made me emotional. I know he's been with me from the beginning, taking me to training every day and after training we would go to a car park in a hotel near where we lived and he worked with me. He was there every day with me and sometimes my sisters would come and watch us. Seeing him so excited is very special and I'm very happy that he has experienced all this with me. He deserves a lot of credit for what I've achieved because he is my biggest fan and has supported me from the beginning. To see him so excited is very, very special".
"It's difficult to choose one moment at Real Madrid because there have been so many. I wouldn't like to choose just one, but winning La Décima and ending that season with a double by winning the Cup, the double in the 2016/17 season, when we won LaLiga and the Champions League... We've played very well over the years and I felt very confident, really enjoying playing. 2018 was also a spectacular year for me both individually and collectively. What we've achieved over the last nine years has been spectacular. It's almost unrepeatable and, to be honest, I couldn't have imagined that I'd win four Champions League titles".
His four Champions League titles
"La Décima was special because we'd waited 12 years to win it. Winning it the way we did, not giving up until the end and continuing to believe... We really believed in ourselves and that goal we scored in the last minute of the game was special. It was an impressive victory".
"When we won the eleventh, I think we could have settled the game earlier. We missed a lot of chances, but in the end we kept our cool when it came to penalties and won the trophy. The twelfth for me was by far our best performance in a Champions League final. It's the one I enjoyed playing in the most".
"The thirteenth was also very special because the coach showed us a video of dynasties in sport before this game: basketball and American football teams that won two or three consecutive titles... We wanted to be part of a dynasty too and win the Champions League for the third time in a row. We always said that if there was a team that could win two Champions League titles in a row or more, it was Real Madrid. Real Madrid had to be the first to do it".
His arrival at Real Madrid
"Arriving at Real Madrid was a dream come true. All the suffering and fighting I had gone through before coming here was in my head, but the only thing I could think about was that I was going to succeed here and I knew I was going to give everything to be successful. I was never going to give up and even if things didn't go well, I knew I was going to work hard to succeed here. That was my mentality and I wanted to succeed".
"The day I was presented to the club was very exciting because I'd been waiting almost two months to sign for Real Madrid. I was very nervous and when I landed here and signed the contract everything happened very quickly. They showed me the trophies and that was a special moment".
"From the beginning, my wife has always been there for me. We've been together since I was 18 or 19 years old and she's my biggest supporter, especially in difficult moments, because you need to have someone who's always with you and who sees your difficulties and times of sufferings. Then there are the children, my parents, my sisters and my childhood friends. They're the people who've always been with me through thick and thin and I'll always be grateful to them for their support".
The worst moment
"After La Décima, I was injured for a year. We'd gone more than 20 games unbeaten and during that run I got injured and I spent four months on the sidelines recovering".