Why this should never be acceptable in football

Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric

When Luka Modric eventually does pack his bags and moves on for good, my lasting memory of him will be that he was an important figure for Tottenham over the past few seasons. It will not, however, be the memory of a player who became too big for a football club.

Evidently that’s how Luka Modric sees himself. Because for the second successive summer, Modric has opted to play hard ball. Fortunately for Spurs, and for the good of football, Daniel Levy is swinging back.

Like with most players, Modric’s view of Tottenham is that he’s outgrown his current club and that he needs that big (money) move away. Fair enough, he’s not the first and he won’t be the last to seek a move to one of Europe’s leading clubs. But again, like a number of modern players, his actions have been absolutely disgusting and no way in keeping with the privileges he was offered in English football.

There was a time, prior to Modric’s move to England, where a number of clubs were circling for the Dinamo Zagreb midfielder. However, all of them had their reservations about the small playmaker. Understandably, none of the major clubs wanted to take the gamble on a player whose club were exaggerating his realistic transfer value. Fair enough, because the owner at Dinamo is notoriously difficult to negotiate with.

But Tottenham took the gamble and were rewarded. Modric, on the other hand, was given a safe route out of Croatian football and into a club where his talents could develop at a steady pace.

With Tottenham, there was never any pressure on the player to do well off the bat. He’s coming in from a hugely inferior league, and yet, when Harry Redknapp finally did take over, he gave Modric the role he could excel in from the midfield.

A big move away was always on the cards, as Spurs were unlikely to challenge those at the top of the table for the league title—their finances simply wouldn’t allow it. But Daniel Levy’s stance following Modric’s latest show of disrespect is the right call. The Tottenham chairman proved last year that the club wouldn’t be forced to submit to the advances of a wealthier club, and they certainly wouldn’t stand for their own player forcing his way out.

Not turning up for training or preseason tours may be ok in the books of many undeserving footballers, but all of them, Modric included, are still under contract. Contracts may mean little in the modern game due to the power of players—as Modric is excellently demonstrating—but Levy and Tottenham can still force the player to sit a little while longer in the field of uncertainty.

Cesc Fabregas did it last year. And although Arsenal held firm for a long, long time (maybe too long,) the player eventually got his move by refusing to play in preseason games.

Like Modric, Fabregas is seen as nothing more than a spoilt footballer with a childish mentality. Their ability and contributions are not lost, but indeed they are somewhat clouded by their final stand-offs with their respective clubs. Arsenal could have kept Fabregas and forced him to see out his contract. For many football fans, surely, that would have been a goal for their clubs over rebellious players. But Arsenal couldn’t let Fabregas and the ongoing saga continue. The pressure from Catalonia was overwhelming, with even the mayor of Fabregas’ hometown accusing Arsenal of kidnap.

For Tottenham, fortunately, Modric has no such allies in Madrid. He won’t be ambushed with the famous white jersey by a party led by Iker Casillas—primarily because Casillas has too much class for all that—and the team leaders won’t be sending flirtatious text messages prior to a deal being done.

Spurs right now have the upper hand. The player may want out, and the club seemed willing to offer him an exit from his contract, but Modric’s latest actions should not be condoned. It would be another positive move for the strength of the club if Levy held the player into next season—and I believe he would be willing to do that. But will Modric perform as he did last season following his disappointments of the summer? Fans are also unlikely to be too welcoming this second time around.

There’s no questioning a player’s loyalty if they do eventually decide time is up and they need a new club. But clubs need to start taking an aggressive stance on players who think it’s ok to skip training and no-show preseason tours. It really is a play right out of Axl Roses’ book of tricks.