Provided this past season is Luka Modric’s only campaign with Real Madrid, the greatest memory to live off the Croatian’s short time in Spain will be that goal and performance against Manchester United in the Champions League. That shouldn’t be it. The enormous fee that was spent to acquire his services demands a little more. But that is the legacy of the player; a footballer who came in and failed to establish himself as a Real Madrid star or ‘Galactico.’
And Spain hasn’t totally warmed to Modric, either. He received a standing ovation from the Madrid supporters when the team beat Malaga 6-2 at the start of May in a match that came nine months after his arrival. Was he really deemed to be the successor to Xabi Alonso in that central midfield role? He performed well enough when placed in that position, yet not always hitting the heights of what was required. But it said even more when his regular place in the starting XI would be further up the pitch behind the striker. This isn’t to say that Real Madrid bought a bad player, but rather they bought a player who didn’t fit into the mould of what they really needed.
A move back to the Premier League has been mooted, with both Chelsea and possibly Manchester United looking to take him off Madrid’s hands. It would be a Jose Mourinho move if the player ended up at Chelsea, offering the team that vital link between the defence and attack. For United, it would just amount to a position being properly filled that has for so long gone without a reputable name (barring Michael Carrick this past season).
At the Bernabeu, Modric was never afforded the importance he had at Tottenham. It was never going to happen. For his first season, he was seen as a reliever to Alonso in that all-important midfield role. Real Madrid’s failures in the Champions League the season prior – although one that spoke more of exhaustion than lack of quality – should provide all the evidence that something more was needed for the machine.
It’s quite the step down for a player who was once considered in the top two or three players of a team. Moreover, the price tag hanging over Modric perhaps added to the expectation from supporters. On the pitch, that expectation was just not being realised on an immediate and consistent basis. At Madrid, is there really any time for patience? When the good performances did come, they weren’t enough to suggest that Madrid had made the right signing in the market.
There will be more than enough evidence to support that even if Modric does remain at the Bernabeu next season. When it eventually comes time to properly replace Xabi Alonso, which is unlikely to be next season, the club will look elsewhere and to the market for his successor. Madrid have already approached Real Sociedad for Ruben Pardo in the past and may even opt to test Dortmund’s resolve for Ilkay Gundogan. If Madrid do strengthen where some believe they will and bring in Isco from Malaga this summer, what happens to Modric then, with Mesut Ozil and the young Spaniard the two most important and natural options for the central attacking role?
It just doesn’t amount to much of a future for a player who battled so long for the dream move to Spain. He can’t play alongside Alonso in the midfield because that would restrict Alonso’s contribution to the attack, and in the most important games in the season, there is little to no chance we’ll see a story similar to that of Iker Casillas and Diego Lopez.
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