Villas-Boas vs. Modric: What It Means for Tottenham's Season
Whether he wants it that way or not, how Andre Villas-Boas's early tenure at Tottenham Hotspur will be largely defined by Luka Modric's exit.
How the Portuguese coach handles the Croatian playmaker's anticipated departure for Real Madrid this summer—both within the club and outwardly with the media—will be heavily scrutinised.
Ironically, it was Villas-Boas's old former club, Chelsea, who were Modric's desired destination this time last year. Back then, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy dug his heels in and refused to be dictated by his player's wishes by denying his request for a move.
Now, the opportunity to raise a reported £30 million for one of their prize assets and to send him abroad rather than strengthen a Premier League and London rival has apparently seen Levy change his tune and decide to sell.
Of course, Villas-Boas has not been involved in any of this. As a head coach rather than a more traditional manager, he is not anywhere near as heavily involved in transfer matters as his predecessor, Harry Redknapp.
In addition, it is highly likely that the club would have decided to let Modric leave if the right offer had come before they even employed their new boss.
However, that does not stop the press and fans alike from judging the Spurs boss on his reaction to the protracted deal. So far, he has handled the situation well, being forthright about Modric's likely departure but stopping short of referring to him as a former player.
He was the one to break the news that the club had fined Modric for not joining the club on their preseason tour of the US, even though that decision was made by Levy and other members of the Spurs board.
The basic message has been "if he wants to leave, then we don't want him anymore", something that has asserted his authority at the club and should strengthen his position among the squad of players he has inherited.
Modric is set to leave the club after excellent years—which includes a run to the Champions League quarterfinals—and parts with the fans' blessings. Villas-Boas has had the luxury of virtually a full post-season to adjust to life after the diminutive midfield magician.
Often when a team loses a pivotal player, the task of changing the fundamental way the side is set up is made a lot easier. Villas-Boas can now set about moulding the Spurs team into his preferred formation and system and, with a bit of luck, can add the personnel required to hit the ground running come August 18, when the Premier League season kicks off.
Whether that happens or not remains open to debate.
Modric has still not left, meaning that Villas-Boas does not yet have access to those funds to re-invest in his squad. With the drawn-out signing of Jan Vertonghen and Emmanuel Adebayor still at Manchester City, Tottenham fans have already seen how long these things can take to be settled.
The longer it takes for Modric to leave, the less time they will have to sign a replacement and to strengthen in other areas.
If—for whatever reason—the deal does not go through by the end of the window, then there will be the rather awkward situation of Modric and Villas-Boas working together for at least another four months.
However, given Modric's professional attitude when it comes to training and matches throughout his Tottenham career, he would be expected to maintain that.
Villas-Boas may have expressed his dissatisfaction in the player wanting to leave, but he has stopped well short of condemning him. As a result, extending their working relationship beyond preseason training should not be difficult if it becomes necessary.
The way things are poised at the moment, whether Modric leaves or ends up staying and working under Villas-Boas should not be too damaging to Tottenham's fortunes either way. The key thing is that if he is to leave, getting the deal done as soon as possible would be best for all concerned.
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