It’s more Groundhog Year than Groundhog Day at White Hart Lane this season. Complete capitulation in the second half of the season, another year propping up Arsenal in the league table and an air of uncertainty around several key players. And how good of Luka Modric to come out today and put his future on hold, just to perfect that Summer 2011 feeling.
But whist the mood of a Spurs fan might not have changed in 12 months, a lot of other things have. Luka Modric will stay, if he knows what’s good for him
On the face of it, the diminutive Croatian could well pack his bags and jump ship this summer. Despite a relatively unspectacular 2012 so far, Modric has had a solid season. His touch, vision and composure are undeniable and he is capable of being an asset to any, top European club. A couple of great showings at Euro 2012 next month will propel him straight back into the gossip columns and Spurs fans straight back to the chemist; but hold the headache for just a moment.
If Chelsea loose to Bayern Munich this Saturday, the game changes for them completely. The Blues may have bid a supposed £40million for Modric last summer, but if Spurs benefit from their missed Champions League spot, a transfer to West London might not stick. Modric said today, “I will make the decision where to continue my career. I’m ready for the big tests.” I’m not a mind reader, but I would hazard a guess that he isn’t talking about a Thursday night trip to Salzburg in the Europa League.
Of course, there is always the notion that Mr. Modric is simply looking to paint his landing gold and put a helipad in his back garden. But there is already a £100,000 a week contract on the table at Spurs. Chelsea will pay more, but he won’t be looking at Manchester City wages. There is still massive uncertainty over the managerial post at Stamford Bridge and their Champions League run shouldn’t fool anyone- as outstanding as they were to beat Barcelona, Chelsea will need a lot more than Luka Modric to sustain any form of title tilt next year.
£40million is, even in today’s transfer marker, still a mammoth sum. For a player who has at times, especially in the wake of the 5-2 disaster at the Emirates, pandered through games like he’s got one foot out the door already, selling him might not feel like such a mitigating disaster.
But when he is in full flow, he is a delight to watch. Ignore the stats brigade and his relatively low goals and assists return. Watch Spurs from September to January. Who was scampering around, and pinging balls off to Bale, Lennon & Van der Vaart to get those assists and goals? How many times during a match has he shielded the ball and kept possession in seemingly impossible situations? The impact of his departure, purely in footballing terms would be a disaster. Perhaps it is a case of you won’t miss him till he’s gone.
But when he’s not playing well, he still gets in the team. It is difficult to imagine Ferguson or Mancini keeping faith with Modric as he switches off when the chips are down, or half-heartedly trots back as their team are hit on the break. But Spurs do. That’s why Scott Parker or Sandro are there. The way Spurs are set up, suits Modric perfectly. He doesn’t need to worry about the stats with Bale and Van der Vaart there. At United or City, he will do.
Manchester United aren’t going to mould their team around Modric, they are going to mould it around Wayne Rooney. Manchester City are not going to mould their team around Modric, in fact, what would he honestly add to that team? The only position you can see him playing in Roberto Mancini’s team is where David Silva is. He won’t drop David Silva. Luka Modric’s uniqueness as a central midfielder might also be his biggest problem. He doesn’t make masquerading tackles, he doesn’t gallivant from box-to-box and he doesn’t score regularly. Not every team needs a human metronome.
Modric will earn more money elsewhere, that is basic fact. But he can still be handsomely paid, play Champions League football and participate in the “biggest tests”, whilst playing every league game. If he leaves Tottenham, that simply isn’t a guarantee.
It’s a horrible cliché, but the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. It’s been a difficult last few months for both Modric and Spurs. But neither can loose sight of how important they both are for each other.
Laughing at the thought of him staying at Spurs? Reckon he’d make it into the City team? Tell us what you’d do: follow @samuel_antrobus