Luka Modric is a player in demand, and his potential move to Chelsea appears to be this summer’s protracted transfer saga. Spurs are adamant that he will stay and do not want to lose face, although they’ve been here before and must surely be considering replacements. Of seemingly far less significance is Niko Kranjcar, likely to soon depart in search of regular first team football. Perhaps Tottenham should put up more of a fight for Modric’s Croatian compatriot, as sometimes the ideal replacement can be right under your nose all along.
Both players are Dinamo Zagreb graduates of a similar age, and who occupy similar positions. Redknapp has signed Kranjcar twice for relatively paltry amounts. Lazio, Roma and Juventus are all believed to be interested, while Dynamo Kiev have claimed to be immersed in negotiations already. Any transfer fee is again unlikely to be more than £2-3m, a relative steal.
Kranjcar has been the main casualty of Gareth Bale’s move from left-back to left-wing, and his subsequent success there. With Modric and Rafael van der Vaart also impressing, opportunities were few and far between in 2010. Redknapp publicly declared his admiration for the player at the start of January and his desire to keep him at the club: “I wouldn’t want Niko to go. He’s been so unlucky. Niko came in last year and he was one of the signings of the season.” Redknapp added: “He’s a top player and a top boy as well. He’s not the type you’d want to lose because you couldn’t replace people like that easily. He’s a class act. He will get back in, he will get his chances to play. We’ve got a tough second half of the season so we’re going to need our best players and he’s one of those. I would love to keep him here.”
By the end of the month however, it looked as though Harry was resigned to losing Niko when he claimed that Kranjcar was unhappy with a lack of first team football and that he would be willing to facilitate a move, if a buyer could be found: “He’d like to play and I’ve said, ‘I understand that Niko and if someone comes in for you then you can go'”.
A £2m bid from Werder Bremen soon materialised, but was rejected, Gareth Bale’s back injury likely to have influenced the decision. With Kranjcar’s wife heavily pregnant, he may well have been unwilling to move abroad at the time had the bid been accepted. Instead he responded with an injury-time winner after coming off the bench against Bolton. He followed up with another decisive strike upon starting the following game at Sunderland, although he was forced to return to the bench when Spurs’ injuries subsided.
Harry Redknapp has capitalised on the misunderstood, prodigious talent of Niko Kranjcar in the past, yet if he is to make the mistake of allowing him to leave for a nominal sum, he will need to spend a considerable amount to secure the services of a replacement of the same calibre. With Redknapp’s attention focused on Modric and signing players to reinforce the club’s ambition, a capable and proven alternative may slip through his fingers as a result.