Amongst all the comings and goings at Tottenham Hotspur this summer, there is one element in particular, that has the capacity to do more damage than any other. Luka Modric’s attitude and demeanor towards the football club has left many feeling more comfortable with the reality of his departure – but however you try to frame it, the diminutive Croatian will be a massive loss at White Hart Lane.
But as Modric gave a depressing reminder of his ability to orchestrate a midfield at Euro 2012, the same tournament also showed that he’s not irreplaceable. It won’t be easy to get him, but there is one man out there who won’t need an instruction manual to get Spurs’ metronome going. João Moutinho would be the perfect replacement for Luka Modric.
Since Modric arrived at Spurs in 2008, his mercurial rise to European hot property has been intertwined with the changing fortunes at White Hart Lane. Lightweight, ineffective and off the pace, offer just a few of the derogatory sound bites aimed at the Croatian during the opening chapter of his Spurs career.
But as Harry Redknapp entered the fray and slowly began turning things around, Modric seized the initiative and never looked back. It was when he worked his way in from a left-sided role that the Premier League really began to take notice and since then, his dictation and orchestration of games have been integral in Spurs’ recent league finishes.
The statistics brigade will continuously use Modric’s lack of goals as a stick to hit him with, but his game is really so much more complex than that. His ability to keep the ball in seemingly impossible situations may seem a relative tepid quality. But Modric keeps possession for his team, in situations that nine out of ten other players wouldn’t be able to. He does that all game, every game. His close control and ability to find pockets of space compliment the Croats’ vision- he is the assist before the assist. He is the man who ensures Bale and Van der Vaart have the opportunity to work their magic.
Modric’s attitude hasn’t particularly endeared himself to supporters, however. As Spurs season capitulated, the Croatian’s shoulders shrugged and he often wore the look of a man that would rather be elsewhere. But however you view Modric the man, you cannot let it skew your opinion of Modric the footballer.
In Croatia’s match against Spain, Modric skipped past Sergio Ramos, turned Jordi Alba before putting the ball on a plate for Ivan Rakitic with the outside of his right foot. It was a moment of breathtaking quality and it is the sort of class that encapsulated the entertainment that has been on show in N17 over the past few seasons. The man is a truly gifted footballer and he will be an almighty loss at White Hart Lane.
But that’s only if he isn’t replaced properly. Whisper it quietly, but there is a surge of positivity and optimism growing around Tottenham Hotspur. The imminent arrivals of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jan Vertonghen and most importantly, Andre Villas Boas, bring with them an alteration of pessimistic viewpoints. The foundations are now there for something really quite exciting to be built upon it. If Modric wants to go, let him go. There is a ready-made replacement in João Moutinho.
It must be noted that there are discrepancies in this viewpoint already. The potential transfer of Moutinho is far from anywhere near a guarantee. Porto are sure to demand a substantial fee for the midfield star and if their other prized asset, Hulk, is sold to Chelsea, then it could be difficult to prize him away from the Estádio do Dragão all together. Even then, Moutinho is talented enough to have a que of top European clubs crave his services. It is thought that Manchester United and Chelsea also crave the Portuguese’s signature.
But the Villas Boas factor can work in Spurs favour. Moutinho and the Spurs manager in waiting have already worked together to great success. Villas Boas would be sure to make Moutinho an integral part of the team and he would secure not only guaranteed first team football at White Hart Lane, but a place n a formation he is already so familiar with. Villas Boas employed a 4-3-3 during his time at Porto and Moutinho was an integral part to that success. Spurs can’t compete with United and Chelsea wage wise, but Moutinho couldn’t receive such footballing guarantees at either club.
Disciplined, hard working and superb on the ball, Moutinho has the tools to step up and fill Modric’s boots. Both are slightly different footballers and maybe Modric has a little more magic when on the ball, but Moutinho has the sort of tenacity and work rate that is rarely seen in a player of his technical calibre. His performance against the Spanish midfield in the Euro 2012 semi-final was absolutely superb and he displayed the sort of guile that wouldn’t have gone a miss in Spurs’ own cup semi-final against Chelsea. It’s hard to imagine Moutinho shrinking away against the Blues midfield in the way Modric did.
The proposed transfer fee could be a big issue for Tottenham. But now is the time to seize the initiative. The proposed exchange of Real Madrid’s Nuri Sahin is a wonderful thought in principle, but Spurs need a Moutinho more than they need a Sahin. A striker is also an urgent priority, but Luka Modric was the glue that has held this Spurs team together in recent times; he is the engine, the metronome of sorts.
Claude Makelele’s departure at Real Madrid was famously compared to a ‘Bentley loosing its engine,’ by Zinedine Zidane. In that case, Luka Modric could perhaps be described as Tottenham’s gearbox. The Spurs vehicle isn’t going to go work too well without something to dictate the speed. And for all their talent at the football club, there is no one at Spurs who can come in and play the Modric role.
Whatever the fee is that Tottenham receive for Luka Modric, it is sure to be enough to make a deal for Moutinho stick. It may seem difficult to go out and invest such an outlandish amount of money so soon. But if Spurs get the Modric money and it is indeed free to be ploughed straight into the first team, then why not? If Spurs loose a top-class midfielder, then they can bring another one in. João Moutinho is the perfect candidate.
How do you feel about the Modric situation at White Hart Lane? Is Moutinho your pick to replace the Croatian should he go? Or can you think of another man to fill the void? Let me know and tell me your thoughts, for all things Spurs, follow @samuel_antrobus