Out Of Position & In An Unstable Environment: Why Ex-Tottenham Star Modric Has Failed In Madrid
There should be a rule written into every player's contract simply stating “the grass is never greener on the other side”. It may leave a star thinking twice about his immediate future, rather than instantaneously assuming their career will significantly improve as a result of a big money move. This notion would posolutely apply to Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, who secured his switch to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu from Tottenham Hotspur over the summer.
It was a transfer saga that rumbled on throughout the transfer window before it was finally completed on the 27th of August. While many could argue that his departure was inevitable, having foolishly gone on strike to attempt to force through a move to Chelsea 12 months earlier, Spurs fans still gave the player his blessings after departing White Hart Lane for the final time.
While his antics hadn't appeased the supporters, they were still thankful for his input during his four years with the club. After announcing his signing in April 2008, Modric went on to enjoy a scintillating European Championship, prior to their quarter final penalty shoot-out exit at the hands of Turkey.
Nevertheless, it left Spurs supporters salivating at the prospect of the 27-year-old pulling the creative strings in the midfield. Under Juande Ramos, his capabilities weren't fully utilised before Harry Redknapp stepped in the managerial hotseat. The veteran boss, realising he wasn't quite ready to influence domestic and continental encounters, placed him on the left-wing in order to adjust to the rigours of English football.
While his input in the 2009/10 campaign was severely hampered after suffering a broken leg following a collision with Lee Bowyer, a return to the centre of the park alongside Tom Huddlestone saw a bulkier Modric finally begin to stamp his authority in games.
It was his performances that initially attracted interest from the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea, only to see their advances halted by the immovable Daniel Levy. The Spurs supremo continuously fought tooth and nail in order to hold onto his prized asset and up until the summer, his efforts weren't in vain.
Yet, when Spurs confirmed the capture of Mousa Dembele from London rivals Fulham, his departure was all but inevitable. Having made his debut two days after his arrival – a substitute appearance during Real's Spanish Super Cup win over Barcelona – fans were understandably excited about the Croatian in Jose Mourinho's ranks.
However, his time in the Spanish capital hasn't worked out as planned, it has to be said. The former Dynamo Zagreb recently admitted he has been struggling to settle in Spain. Becoming the fourth Croatian to move to Real, after Robert Prosinecki, Davor Suker and Robert Jarni, it was certainly going to be a struggle to adjust to La Liga, especially with the aforementioned trio enjoying mixed success during their respective time in Spain.
The problem with Modric is that he is being utilised out of position. With Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso the guaranteed starters in his 4-2-3-1, Mourinho has opted to utilise the midfielder higher up the pitch in a number 10 role, behind either Karim Benzema or Gonzalo Higuain.
It's been widely stated that his best position is as a deep lying playmaker – one that provides the assist for the assist for the goal. Now charged with probing the opposition backline and threading the balls through to the strikers, the 27-year-old appears lost with his new position.
With Mesut Ozil also occupying a similar position on the pitch, not to mention the creative exploits of Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria, any poor performance from Modric would promptly be capitalised upon by his critics, with the options available to Mourinho likely to see him dropped to the bench.
As a result, Modric has been unable to perform to his highest ability, and mustered less than 1,500 minutes of playing time in his 26 games for Real; an average of 55 minutes per game. The lack of consistent playing time ultimately saw Marca dub him the worst signing of 2012, despite Barcelona midfielder and summer arrival Alex Song spending less time on the pitch.
With Khedira and Alonso nailing down the starting spots in the “Doppelsechs” role behind the attacking midfield trio, not to mention the arrival of Michael Essien, it isn't a surprise to see his impact limited at the Bernabeu.
On top of that, the darkening storm clouds gathering around the club are likely to have played a major role in his inability to really stamp his authority on La Liga. With Mourinho seemingly embroiled in an ongoing personal vendetta against the Madrid stars, being thrust into the limelight in the Spanish capital after his £33m move was never going to aid his cause.
As the 49-year-old continues his ostensibly long drawn out quest to be given the sack by Real, it has seen numerous baffling decisions in the squad selection, the latest of which has seen captain 'Sans' Iker Casillas dropped in favour of backup goalkeeper Antonio Adan.
Such instability would be enough to see any player become disillusioned at any club, let alone one of the magnitude of the Primera Division champions. As a result, rumours have continuously circulated regarding a possible return to the Premiership.
The likes of Chelsea and Manchester United, both whom have been linked with Modric in the past, are reported to have shown an interest, with the former in particular following their repeated interest in the playmaker 18 months ago.
Whether the 27-year-old does make a spectacular return to England in the foreseeable future, it remains to be seen. However, to have been dubbed the worst signing of 2012 due to circumstances out of his control is unfair, if uncalled for.
Granted, Modric hasn't reached the dizzying heights of his Spurs days, but even then it took him at least six months before he managed to find some form of rhythm in the Premier League. A combination of playing out of position and the continuous speculation surrounding the future of the manager, and the man who worked hard to bring him to Spain, would be enough to ultimately see his form dip.
Placing the blame squarely on his shoulders will hardly improve matters, but what is important is giving the 27-year-old the time to really settle. Acclimatising to new surroundings isn't going to occur overnight, but it again bring the old cliché that the 'grass is never greener' to the surface, and not for the first time, and certainly not the last, for any player.