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No row with Real Madrid over Luka Modric, says Croatia coach Kovac

Croatia coach Niko Kovac has played down talk of conflict with Real Madrid over midfielder Luka Modric's injury difficulties.

Modric is sidelined after straining ligaments in his right knee during Real's win over Malaga on April 18 -- an injury Croatia team doctor Boris Nemec blamed on Carlo Ancelotti not easing the player back gradually enough after four months out with a torn thigh muscle.

That muscle tear was picked up on international duty with Croatia in November, and Kovac claimed the injury had been caused by Madrid over-playing Modric.

But he told Marca this week that Nemec's comments were "unfortunate" and stressed he wanted to maintain a good relationship with Madrid's medical staff.

"We firmly believe that Real Madrid, with Ancelotti, want the best for Luka the same as we do," the former Croatia defender said.

He said Nemec's remarks were "unfortunate comments that, I hope and wish, will not influence the good working relationship between our medical staff and those at Madrid."

And he added: "Luka's injury is the product of different circumstances. He has played many games over the last three years, with his club and national team.

"Injuries are part of sport, and I would like to avoid pointing the finger at anyone."

Modric could return for the end of the La Liga season on May 24 and would therefore be in line to feature if Madrid reach the Champions League final, played in Berlin on June 6.

Kovac, whose side have a crucial Euro 2016 qualifier at home to Italy on June 12, said there was hope that the 29-year-old would be back by then.

"Speaking with him, I have the feeling that he is pretty optimistic," he added. "He feels he is improving, although he needs time to recover, and we think he will play with his club and his national team before the end of the season.

"We hope he does not have any setbacks. If he is ready, than Ancelotti and myself will want to use him, but, of course, his health is the top priority. We will not take risks if he is not 100 percent."

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