Luka Modric – a needless indulgence who has much to give the Premier League
Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric has been linked with a dramatic move back to the Premier League after failing to fully settle in Spain, with both Manchester United and Chelsea among the interested parties, but which would he suit best and what are the chances of it happening?
In a recent vote conducted by Madrid-based newspaper and mouthpiece of the administration at the club, Marca, Modric collected 32.2% of the vote, beating Barcelona’s summer signing, former Arsenal midfielder Alex Song into second place as the La Liga’s worst signing of the season.
While the 27-year-old finally completed his move from Tottenham after protracted negotiations with chairman Daniel Levy, he has failed to make a spot fully his own in Jose Mourinho’s side as they’ve struggled with poor form all campaign. In total he has made 14 league appearances, but only managing 717 minutes playing time in total with just eight of those appearances coming from the start.
The suspicions of many, myself included, that Modric was a needless indulgence have been confirmed and he lacks a clearly defined role in the side, failing to catch light in a more advanced role in place of Mesut Ozil or in a deeper-lying one alongside Xabi Alonso when granted the rare opportunity to try and impress. In essence, he was signed because Mourinho was unsure about who else to move for and who could actually improve his starting eleven and £33m looks an expensive price for a player sat warming the bench and confined to a rotation role.
After the recent 2-2 draw against Espanyol at home, Mourinho intimated that Modric’s fitness was the main cause for concern: “Modric is still having some small problems, especially when playing two consecutive matches in three days. Each time we pick him twice in a row his performance has not been the best. I took a strategic decision. I thought putting Di Maria on and opening up the flanks could help the team. And it did, because I think that in the second half the team produced more attacking football. So that is why I was sorry to take off Luka, but it was for strategic reasons.”
With the reigning champions sat way back in third place at present, five points behind rivals Atletico Madrid and an insurmountable 16 points off Barcelona at the top, it all adds up to a meek defence of their league title and Mourinho has cut an increasingly divisive figure on the sidelines, being booed by the home support and seeming every inch a man trying to get fired rather than resign, with his continued reluctance to start club legend Iker Casillas proving puzzling to say the least.
While Modric will be reluctant to cut his time in Spain short at such an early stage, the club is besieged by a poisonous environment at the moment and having been pursued so vigorously by Mourinho in the summer, the club may wish to get rid of the last remnants of a failed era in the summer, with the Croat a likely casualty. He would not be the first superb midfield player to have been harshly treated by Real Madrid, with Wesley Sneijder, Esteban Cambiasso and Rafael van der Vaart all serving as prime examples that logic need not always apply to the inner wranglings of the Santiago Bernabeu.
Obviously in the world of football transfer rumours, this equates to him being ready to move and given what time of the year it is, 2+2=5 and Modric is apparently being targeted by both Chelsea and Manchester United; it looks far fetched to say the least in January, but is a summer switch back to these fair shores really that difficult to see?
Firstly, it would take something approaching the £33m Real Madrid paid for him for them to even consider letting him go and with Xabi Alonso now 31 years of age, the diminutive playmaker might be regarded as the Spaniard’s long-term successor in the side. Nevertheless, Chelsea could certainly do with a central midfield player capable of dictating the tempo from deep, with John Obi Mikel failing to impress for the most part during his time at Stamford Bridge and Ramires perhaps best utilised further up the pitch where his all-action style can do the most damage.
With Frank Lampard certain to depart in the summer now after his agent’s revelations earlier today, despite David Luiz’s successful conversion in recent weeks under interim boss Rafa Benitez to a midfield role, there certainly looks like there’s a spot up for grabs in the squad and meddling owner Roman Abramovich has form when it comes to foisting players onto managers in the past with Andriy Shevchenko, Fernando Torres and to a lesser extent, Luiz, all bought at the Russian oligarch’s behest.
Manchester United would possibly be an even more attractive destination, though, and Ferguson is known to be a long-term admirer of Modric’s, even if he has seemed reluctant to address a systemic problem with the club’s midfield in recent years.
Many have conveniently blamed the club’s back four for the way in which the side have leaked so many goals so far this season and gone behind first in over 15 games across all competitions this term, but it seems a rather simplistic way of looking at things and surely it has just as much to do with the lack of pressure on the ball in midfield from first-choice pairing Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley.
Of course, bringing in Modric would not change that flaw, nor does it look like it will have an impact on the club’s march to the league title this campaign, but Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs will need replacing eventually, and along with a more combative holding man, the former Tottenham star could bring an element of control to proceedings which they’ve lacked in big games, particularly in Europe in recent years.
At the moment, a return to the top flight all looks a little pie in the sky with regards to Modric and Real Madrid, Mourinho and the player himself will all be reluctant to give up on the move after such a rocky start, with so much invested in the switch, both in terms of money and the reputations at stake. Moreover, while United may have splashed the cash on van Persie in the summer, Ferguson’s lack of movement in that area of the pitch in the last few years means this one just isn’t a goer at the moment, but when it comes to Chelsea, though, it’s difficult to rule them out with any confidence given their penchant for pulling off the odd transfer surprise.