With Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric edging towards the exit door at White Hart Lane, he looks set to jump ship to Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid side, the current Spanish champions – but with a plethora of talent already at the Portuguese manager’s disposal, where will he fit in exactly?
First off, it looks as if Tottenham are going to get an excellent deal for Modric – whether that be upwards of £30m or £20 plus Nuri Sahin remains to be seen, but I’m pretty confident in Daniel Levy’s negotiating abilities to drive himself a hard bargain on behalf of the club. The fact of the matter is that while indisputably a very good player, Modric isn’t quite world class, he’s just short of that, but a fee upwards of £30m would suggest he already is, so it indicates that Mourinho has targeted him for a key role, but who will move out of the side to make room for the Spurs man?
Well Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema scored 67 goals between them last term and should be seen as tantamount to undroppable. The Frenchman in particular has become an integral player over the course of the last year, enjoying his finest season in the hallowed white shirt last campaign, while Cristiano Ronaldo, is well, a goalscoring freak of nature.
Mourinho also remains an absolutely huge fan of Mesut Ozil and after creating a truly staggering 49 assists in two seasons, it’s clear to see what he meant when he said this back in March: “He is the best number 10 in the world. Everyone loves him and sees a bit of Figo and Zidane in him. He will make history at Real Madrid.” High praise indeed and quite possibly the most pivotal player in Mourinho’s Madrid side, the one that makes it all tick, and he definitely won’t be shunted out wide or moved from his current central role behind the lone front-man.
Xabi Alonso is as equally important, dictating the tempo from deep, and he’s come on in leaps and bounds since making the step up in class since his departure from Liverpool. However, there may be a slot beside him in midfield for Modric to take, with the side predominantly playing two holding men in Alonso and Sami Khedira for the majority of last season, and against more defensive sides, Modric may come in alongside the Spaniard and be told to thread the play between Ozil and Alonso, much in the same way as he does for Spurs at the moment.
Another possibility is that Angel Di Maria may see his role reduced after his form tailed off towards the latter half of last season. When on form, he remains one of the best wingers in the world, but there’s still an inconsistency to his game, and even when the side are playing well, he can be somewhat anonymous at times, even more so in the club’s biggest games last term against Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
The Argentine’s pace is a useful asset on the right, acting as the perfect counter-balance to Cristiano Ronaldo on the left, but perhaps Mourinho has it in mind to play 4-3-3, a formation that he’s known to be a fan of from his time at Inter Milan, in the biggest games as he seeks to dominate possession more. This could see Modric come in alongside Khedira and Alonso, with Di Maria dropping out of the starting eleven and coming in as an impact sub later on in the game to stretch the opposition.
Nuri Sahin has been desperately unlucky with injury during his time in Spain and remains a truly brilliant technician, but he looks likely to have missed the boat so to speak and will be moved on – if Andre Villas-Boas can get him, though, they’ll be getting a player that while he may not be quite as dynamic and box-to-box as the Croatian, can certainly match him and then some for his ability on the ball and he’ll go down as merely the latest midfielder to fall foul of the Real Madrid curse, alongside the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart and Lassana Diarra in recent times as being extremely good players whose face just didn’t quite fit in at the Bernabeu.
With the club likely to be challenging on three fronts going into the latter stages of the season, Mourinho may simply be reinforcing his squad with a versatile player capable of performing in multiple roles. Modric could be his go-to 12th man whenever he wants to change up his side. If this were true, he’d still likely start upwards of 30 games per season, but it could potentially have a knock-on effect on the sort of game time that Gonzalo Higuain sees in the future.
The 49 year-old boss is never one that can be accused of planning much for the future, but perhaps he sees Modric as Alonso’s long-term heir at the club. Mourinho is known to deal in short, staccato-like spells of success, before departing with his reputation enhanced, and he rarely leaves a lasting legacy, rather the remnants of an ageing side that needs heavy reinforcements. At 31 years of age, Alonso probably has at least another three years at the top of his game, but at 26, Modric represents something of a long-term purchase for the club, and when you put it into that context, it starts to make a lot more sense, even if the initial fee may be a bit on the hefty side.
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