Mason Mount cannot wait to pit his wits against Croatia playmaker Luka Modric again, just a month on from the England midfielder being left gobsmacked when one of his boyhood heroes asked for his shirt.
All eyes will be on Wembley this Sunday as Gareth Southgate’s men kick off Group D against the side that broke English hearts in the World Cup semi-finals three years ago.
Modric ran the show as Croatia came back to secure that 2-1 extra-time win and the Three Lions will be looking to exact revenge under the arch, where Mount is hoping to get the better of the veteran once more.
The Chelsea midfielder went toe to toe with the 35-year-old in the Champions League semi-finals and played a key role in knocking out Real Madrid before going on to win the final against Manchester City.
‘He has always been a player that I have looked up to,’ Mount said. ‘Ever since he has been in the Premier League with Tottenham, I have watched him quite closely.
‘Playing against him, it was weird because I had watched him so much, I kind of knew his moves and what he was going to do.
‘It helps being a fan of a player and then playing against him because you know what he likes to do.
‘The experience of playing against him helps because you want to be in these big games and learn how to handle the pressure and big moments.
‘Them two games were massive in our run and I gained a lot of experience from them two games.’
Mount did not only play against Modric but took home his shirt, with the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner then requesting his jersey at Stamford Bridge.
‘I spoke to [Mateo] Kovacic before the first game and asked if I could get his shirt at a later date,’ he said.
‘I managed to do that and he asked for mine in the second game because I didn’t actually give him mine in the first.
‘Kova said he likes to swap with players so he came up and said he wanted mine, just said good luck in the upcoming games.
‘It was brilliant for me obviously to speak to him and he wants my shirt so I was quite overwhelmed, yeah.’
Asked what it felt like knowing Modric wanted his shirt, he smiled and said: ‘Special. I’ve got it at home along with a couple of others I’ve got over the last couple of months or so. It’s always good to keep those special shirts.’
Another of Mount’s idols growing up was Chelsea great Frank Lampard, who had a ‘massive influence’ on his development having taken him to Derby on loan and used him heavily when he took over at Stamford Bridge.
The 22-year-old still keeps in contact with the former Blues boss, who kept faith with him ‘even through the tough times’ as some called his role with club and country into question.
‘I don’t really try to look too much into what happens away, if it’s good or bad,’ he said. ‘I feel like it’s not going to improve you on the pitch.
‘What I like to focus on is the people that really mean a lot on the pitch and helped me grow as a player.
‘That’s always something I’ve tried to do and obviously I’m very confident in my ability and what I can do so, yeah, that’s the most important thing for me.’
Declan Rice was among those to publicly stick up for Mount.
The pair grew up together and are best friends, but the West Ham midfielder has been testing the patience of his St George’s Park neighbour.
‘He is there next door and every time he wakes up – he wakes up earlier than me – and he tries to knock on my door and wake me up to go to breakfast every morning,’ Mount said.
‘I might have to move a couple of doors down so I’m not right next to him!
‘To have my best mate with me and to go through this experience with him and obviously all of the other boys as well, it means a lot and it’s something that is very special to us and that we’ll remember for a long time.’
The Euros continue a ‘rollercoaster’ few weeks that Mount believes could continue on to 11 July with England competing for glory at Wembley.
‘Obviously knowing the history, we’ve never won a Euros before so, for us, we’re a team that’s very hungry to want to do that,’ he added.
‘We want to create history that no one has ever done before and I feel like with this group, with this young group, we can definitely do that and we know what we can do.
‘We know the level of players we have in this group and how together we are, and how hungry we are to create history, so we’ve just got to go and perform on the pitch now.’
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