Exclusive - Croatian playmaker is heading for the Bridge, reports Jonathan WilsonIn this age of weight-training and rippling physiques, it is heartening to find the game still has a place for somebody as slight of frame as Luka Modric. He is routinely compared to Tomas Rosicky, but there is something, too, of Jesper Olsen about his slump-shouldered brilliance.It is assumed that it is doubts about his size that have prevented him leaving Dinamo Zagreb already, but it has been revealed exclusively to Observer Sport that club vice president Zdravko Mamic was at the home of Roman Abramovich this week and it looks likely that Modric will move to Stamford Bridge in the summer.A member of Dinamo's management committee, Tomislav Marcinko reiterated the Chelsea owner's wish to sign the player, and pay a high price for him, saying: 'Abramovich is ready to pay for every one of Modric's kilos.'Modric might be slight, but he's tough, having learned how to handle himself during an early stint in the Bosnian league with Mostar side Zrinjski. If he were to join the Premier League, he says he would not be fazed. 'If you can play in Bosnia, you can play anywhere.'While there is something traditional about Modric's reliance on the deft and the subtle, he is representative of a new breed of player: the playmaker who does not play as such. He is sumptuously talented, but can also track back.Balkan football has always prized its No 10s. The Croatia side that reached the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup played with three of them - Robert Prosinecki, Zvonimir Boban and Aljosa Asanovic - something none but the unorthodox coach Miroslav Blazevic would have dared attempt.More recent interpretations of the classic Balkan system tend to have been rather more conservative, supplementing the three central defenders with two holding midfielders in a 3-4-1-2. Modernisers see that as old-fashioned, but it remains the most common formation in Croatian club football. At Dinamo, Modric operates almost as an orthodox No 10, albeit in a 4-2-3-1.By the time of the last World Cup - when the issue had been brought into sharper focus by Serbia's impressive qualifying record with a flat back four - it had become Croatian football's equivalent of the West Lothian question, or the debate over whether Gerrard and Lampard can play together in the same midfield.The national coach Zlatko Kranjcar reasoned that as he had two of the best wing-backs in the world in Darijo Srna and Marko Babic, he may as well use them and stuck to a 3-4-1-2 system, with his son Niko as the playmaker. Croatia were eliminated in the group stages.Almost the first thing Slaven Bilic did on succeeding Kranjcar was to put an end to the debate. His preference, he said, was for a Dutch-style 4-3-3, and although he has come to favour a 4-1-3-2, there has never been a suggestion of returning to a back three.The paradox is that while the traditionalists feared the disappearance of the playmaker, Bilic has managed to squeeze in two, sometimes even three. Kranjcar has been retained in the left-sided role in which he is blossoming for Portsmouth and Modric, a player Bilic championed through the under-21 team, has become a fixture. 'My role in the national team is very different to the one I perform with Dinamo,' Modric said. 'Here I have a freer role, but I also have more defensive responsibilities.'Kranjcar senior hailed Modric as 'very talented, with a strong presence and organisational qualities' after his debut in a 3-2 victory over Argentina in a pre-World Cup friendly. Yet he gave him just 26 minutes on the field, in two substitute appearances, during the tournament.Bilic, making a conscious turn to youth and away from the physicality and cynicism of Kranjcar's side, included him in the starting line-up as he began his reign against Italy. Modric responded with a goal in a 2-0 win. 'The team now is very different to the side at the World Cup,' Modric said. 'There are a lot of young players. Bilic was our under-21 coach and he knows us and our capabilities. He's a perfect coach and we have a great relationship. You can see that from the results we've had.'Bilic has proved himself adept at international management. His rough charm disguises his astuteness , but his side has a pleasing balance. With Niko Kovac sweeping in front of the back four they have a stability that has allowed Bilic to give rein to his more creative players. The result is a confidence about Croatia that is probably greater even than in 1998.There will be 6,700 Croatia fans at Wembley on Wednesday - the maximum number of away supporters the FA will countenance - and they will not care what England need from the game. They will be there simply to celebrate Bilic's new Croatia.