Croatia’s opening Group C win over the Republic of Ireland highlighted one important facet; when Luka Modric is in the mood to play, he can most certainly play. The diminutive schemer was imperative to the 3-1 victory over the Irish on Sunday night, pulling the strings in yet another impressive performance for Slaven Bilic’s side.
As fans of Tottenham Hotspur can testify, the 26-year-old can be one of, if not the, best midfielder in the world when he is given the time and space to really make his mark in any encounter. His early season showings for the North Londoners, irregardless of the form and attitude prior to September, more than saw him live up to his £40m price-tag.
Chelsea were more than keen to take him away from White Hart Lane for that fee, having been re-buffed twice by chairman Daniel Levy. The Croatian star was keen on Champions League football last season and despite finishing fourth, the club will be forced to partake in the Europa League for a second successive season after the Blues Champions League win. This is likely to see the vultures circle around their prey, with it again being Modric.
Who is interested?
Having acquired Eden Hazard and Marko Marin already, with Lucas Piazon already on the books and the club focusing more on Lucas Moura, Chelsea are unlikely to show an interest again for a second summer running. Manchester United are long-term admirers of the former Dynamo Zagreb trainee, whilst Real Madrid are believed to have made him their number one target this summer. But, do both clubs really need him?
United recently secured the signature of long-term target Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund. The Japan international will arrive, subject to a work permit, for around £16m, all but confirming their intention to strengthen their midfield this summer. The news that Paul Scholes has signed a new one-year deal will further bolster the options available to Sir Alex Ferguson in the middle of the park.
However, with the former England midfielder now at 37-years-old, this year is likely to be his last with Ferguson keen on finding the player to replace Scholes sooner rather than later. Kagawa is unlikely to be his replacement, opting to play further forward (his stats of 29 goals in two years for Dortmund, a quarter of which he was sidelined for through injury, support this).
Modric is more likely to settle in the Scholes role, opting to dictate the play from deep rather than push further forward to support the front-men. Real, on the other hand, are unlikely to require a player of his unless they offload a number of midfielders this summer. Will most likely partner Xabi Alonso in a 4-2-3-1 under Jose Mourinho, the Portuguese tactician already utilises Fabio Coentrao, Lassana Diarra, Nuri Sahin or Sami Khedira alongside the Spaniard.
Unless he is prepared to release at least one of the mentioned quartet, despite reports suggesting Modric is there number one target, I can’t see him fitting into the current system at Real, unless he is prepared to play a bit part role. With that in mind, a move to United, should he have the choice, would be the more viable option for the midfielder.
How much will he cost?
As mentioned, when Modric is in the mood, he is very much the £40m man that some have tagged him. However, as performances between January and April for Spurs last season were anything to go by, when his head isn’t focused on the game at hand, he is more of a liability than an asset.
Should he have a prolific Euro’s, then his value will likely rise considerably, especially if he puts in similar performances like that of Sunday night. However, as previously mentioned, when Modric opts to go missing from certain games, it is painstakingly evident. Too many times when Spurs were pushing for third last season did this happen and it is more than likely that it will happen win the future.
You can understand why some believe that pre-2012, Modric would comfortably command a fee of around £40m. However, in the new year, his performances dropped and his body language was that of a player who already knows he is off in the summer, therefore sending it closer to around £30m, at most, barring of course his performance in the 4-1 win over Bolton Wanderers.