Luka Modric's prospective move to Madrid is a dream come true for the Croatian, but is it a good move for Real?
Real Madrid are as synonymous with big summer signings as English batsman are to sudden collapses. Simply put, a summer without Real Madrid splashing the cash and hosting garish, cringe-inducing welcome ceremonies, just doesn't feel right.
Yet at the time of writing Real Madrid have acquired precisely zero new players for the 2012/2013 campaign, which they hope will culminate in the club lifting a record tenth European Cup at Wembley in May. Although Los Blancos have yet to unveil any new Galacticos, they have been a key player in this summers longest running transfer saga.
Depending on who you believe Luka Modric has wanted to leave Tottenham for the last one, two or even three years. Whatever the case, the Croatian has made it abundantly clear that he wishes to leave White Hart Lane for the Bernabeu as soon as humanly possible. The question is, do Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho actually need Modric?
In a football world increasingly dominated by statistics there is an argument to say that last season Real Madrid were one of the best teams we have seen in the last 20 years. They broke the Spanish record for goals in a single season, scoring a staggering 121 goals and amassing a record 100 points. Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema alone contributed more than 100 goals between them in all competitions. There are obvious caveats to these numbers such as the relative might of Madrid financially in a La Liga which they are and Barcelona dominate on and off the pitch.
However this is unquestionably a special team and they have reached the semi finals of the Champions League in the past two seasons, being denied a place in the final first by two moments of brilliance by Leo Messi before crashing out to Bayern Munich on penalties last year. They are many peoples favorites for the Champions League this year as Jose Mourinho looks to become only the second coach to win 3 European Cups and the first to do so with 3 different clubs.
This summer Madrid have made Luka Modric there number one target, with Mourinho otherwise seemingly content with the squad at his disposal, and have spent most of the summer locked in negotiations with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy. Madrid have just over a week to agree a fee with Spurs before the transfer window closes, however were Madrid to fail to acquire Modric it would arguably spell just as many problems for Tottenham as it would for Real.
For one thing it would mean that Spurs are stuck with a player who, although as good as any midfielder in the country, clearly does not want to be at the club. Whilst many will say that the exact same thing occurred last summer and Modric managed to put it behind him and have another excellent season, many Spurs fans have had enough of Modric and would happily see him leave. It would also deprive Tottenham of much needed transfer funds which new manager Andre Villas-Boas wishes to use to strengthen a squad that has some worrying gaps.
It seems likely that the Modric saga will run and run, but below are some possible roles for the Croatian were he to succeed and get his dream move to Spain.
1. A replacement for Xabi Alonso.
Although it seems strange to talk about replacing a man who has won everything there is to win in club and international football, Alonso will turn 31 this November and negotiations over extending his contract at Madrid are rumored to have stalled in recent weeks, with the club unwilling to commit long-term to the brilliant Basque. With this in mind, Modric could well be seen as a replacement for Alonso. The Spurs man is only 26 and offers many of the abilities that Alonso possesses. His passing is equally as tidy, although he lacks Alonso's propensity for pinging the ball 70 yards, which has become something of a trademark for the Spaniard. He does not provide the strength in the air or in the tackle that Alonso has either although Modric's strength and defensive play has improved dramatically since arriving England.
2. Alongside Xabi.
Another possible role for Modric would be to partner Alonso at the base of Real Madrid's 4-2-3-1 formation. With Madrid dominating the vast majority of their games, especially at home where last season they only dropped 5 points, it is not always necessary for Mourinho to field one of his more defensively minded midfielders i.e. Sami Khedira, Lassana Diarra or Fabio Coentrao. With Modric in the squad, Mourinho would be able deploy two outstanding passers in midfield thus further monopolising Madrid's control of possession. The counter to this argument is that Mourinho has always based his teams first and foremost on defensive stability and whether he would be prepared to risk this for the sake of an extra passer is questionable.
Another argument to this is the figure of Nuri Sahin, who arrived at the Bernabeu last season after a simply brilliant season in Germany where he was the key figure in Borussia Dortmund's unexpected Bundesliga triumph. Not wholly dissimilar to Modric in appearance or style of play, Mourinho has barely given Sahin a chance and the Turkish midfielder is now on his way to either Arsenal or Liverpool on loan.
Although this position for Modric would not guarantee him too many starts, especially in Europe where the defensive midfielder is king, it does give Mourinho an option which he does not currently have.
3. In the front three.
The last possible role for Luka Modric is as an addition to Madrid's potent front 3, of which the first choice players are Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria and of course Cristiano Ronaldo. At times last season, Harry Redknapp shifted Modric out wide, and whilst it is far from his best position, Modric showed that he can play there. If Mourinho was looking for a slightly more conservative approach he could feasibly deploy Modric instead of Angel Di Maria and although Modric lacks the Argentine's electric speed and goal threat, he would again provide Real with another option for recycling and maintaining possession.
It is a similar role to the one which Andres Iniesta often performs for Barcelona and Spain, where he starts on the left or right but has a freedom to drift inside and therefore providing a presence both out wide and as an extra midfielder.
Equally Modric could provide cover for Mesut Ozil, although with Kaka still at Madrid (although he could be set to return to Milan any day now), Modric would seem to be third choice for this position.
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