Blog: An ode to Luka Modric

The last two weeks have been the making of Gareth Bale. His two performances against Internazionale on the European stage have confirmed to the world what we in England have known for the past 12 months; Bale is one of the most rapidly improving players in the world. As praise rains down on the Welsh winger, I would like to take the opportunity to talk about the quiet man of Tottenham’s team.

Luka Modric does not look like the modern footballer prototype. Standing at just 1.74 metres and with a waif thin gait, initial impressions are of a boy amongst men – especially when you compare him to his lumbering, but technically exquisite, midfield partner Tom Huddlestone. Yet to watch Modric play is to understand that the modern footballer is exactly what he is. For a start he is versatile, equally comfortable when starting on the left and cutting inwards as he is playing as part of a two or three-man centre midfield. He is quick, strong, technically sound and has an eye for goal. He has all the attributes one could wish for in a central midfielder.

But there is so much more to Modric than that. In fact, in his excellent book Inverting the Pyramid, Jonathan Wilson labelled Modric the new archetypal number 10. Looking at his assist for Rafael van der Vaart’s opener on Wednesday, it is easy to understand why. First there is the opening up of his body as he receives Bale’s pass, taking him past a robust challenge. Crowded out by four Inter defenders in close proximity there seemed little option for him but to shoot. Modric’s awareness is heightened. Where others would not dream to look, he anticipated van der Vaart’s run across the penalty area. The reverse-pass was as intelligent as it was devastating. 1-0 to Tottenham.

With van der Vaart the furthest forward of the midfield five, Modric was equally comfortable assuming defensive responsibility. Criticism of his ‘lightweight’ stature which accompanied him on his arrival in England look facile right now.

Whilst most of the media remain oblivious to his influence, Harry Redknapp is understandably grateful. “Modric makes the difference,” he has been quoted. “In my opinion he could play in any team, anywhere in the world.” So whilst the eyes of the football world focus on Gareth Bale, just remember the little Croatian maverick. Without him, Tottenham are noticeably poorer.

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