Well, summer wouldn’t be the same without Sir Alex openly pining after one of Tottenham’s crown jewels. Having successfully ensnared Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov from Manchester United’s unofficial feeder club in recent seasons, Sir Alex Ferguson will be preparing Spurs fans for a summer of uncertainty as he looks to prise Croat Luka Modrić away from White Hart Lane.
The Manchester United manager has not been shy in expressing his admiration for the diminutive playmaker. Ahead of the club’s recent 3-1 win over the Lilywhites at Old Trafford, Ferguson (in his match day programme notes) said of the Croat, “And I give you another wee man who’ll be at Old Trafford this afternoon: Luka Modrić, who is playing out of his skin at the moment.” Prior to this, Ferguson had paid Modrić the ultimate compliment by acknowledging his threat in the 2009 Carling Cup Final, with Spurs’ boss Harry Redknapp informing The Guardian that, “Alex Ferguson said to me after the game last week that he thought Modrić was fantastic. He changed how they played because of him.” History has shown that Manchester United’s recent pursuits of Tottenham players have been fruitful, but will Luka Modrić be able to resist Sir Alex’s overtures this summer?
A colleague of mine recently discussed why the retention of Luka Modrić was key to Tottenham’s future success, and I fully endorse this claim. Following an indifferent start to his career in English football, Modrić has become an integral part of Harry Redknapp’s first-team and has been one of the chief contributors towards Tottenham’s hunt for Champions League football this season. Misused by Juande Ramos, Redknapp instantly noted the quality of Modrić upon taking over the White Hart Lane hot-seat, stating his intention to “build a team around him to play with him.” Modrić has repaid this faith with a string of impressive displays in the Spurs’ midfield, and it appears that these displays have not gone unnoticed.
The playmaker’s performances would certainly suggest that he is happy in his surroundings at White Hart Lane. With the open support of his manager, Modrić has been given the freedom to flourish. In addition to this, Spurs have also managed to acquire two of Modrić’s international team-mates in Vedran ‘Charlie’ Ćorluka (who just so happens happens to be Modric’s best friend) and Niko Kranjčar, further improving Modrić’s playing environment in order to achieve the best from him.
The player himself has expressed his desire to play Champions League football, a desire which Spurs (at present) look like being able to fulfil. Speaking to The Times earlier this season, Modrić expressed his faith in the current Spurs side, stating that, “we should be fighting for the [Premier League] title soon. I hope in the future we can win it. This season is the start of something big.” The Croat is clearly a motivated young man and has ambitions of playing football at the highest level.
Modrić, 25 later this year, will soon be approaching the peak years of his career. Given his desire to play Champions League football, he will no doubt be enticed by the offer of joining an established top-four club with years of top-level European experience. Whilst Spurs finishing fourth would ensure them a spot in next season’s Champions League qualifying rounds, there is no guarantee that they would qualify for the tournament proper. The anticipated summer spending of rivals Manchester City means that the battle for fourth place will be even tougher next season, especially if Spurs have the ‘distraction’ of Champions League football too. A move to Old Trafford would be more likely to provide Modrić with the chance to play Champions League football year after year, at a club consistently challenging for the Premier League title.
Redknapp will no doubt be drawing upon all his managerial expertise to ensure Modrić stays at Tottenham. Fortunately for him, he will able to illustrate the “grass isn’t always greener” argument by pointing to the recent case of Dimitar Berbatov, who has seen his dream move to Manchester United turn somewhat sour over the last couple of seasons. Although an extreme example of how badly a dream move can go wrong, the demise of Robbie Keane from Spurs’ vice-captain to turning out in the SPL within 18 months, will also indicate to Modrić the ills of joining a ‘bigger’ club.
The previous two high-profile player transfers from Spurs to Manchester United occurred at a time when a gulf of difference existed between the two clubs. With Spurs’ recent ascension to the upper echelons of the Premier League, the gap between the two clubs is closing and it appears that Modrić will be able to fulfil his aspirations of top-level football at his current side. Fortunately for Spurs, I believe that, should they finish fourth, they will be able to hang on to their little magician (for this summer at least).
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