Luka Modric to Real Madrid: How the Tottenham Signing Improves Los Blancos
With Croatian midfielder Luka Modric all but signed to Real Madrid, it's now worth thinking about how exactly the Tottenham player will help the defending La Liga champs.
First of all, it's worth emphasizing that José Mourinho has spent a lot time and resources in the pursuit of the player, so clearly there's an obvious need that the Real Madrid manager feels the Croatian can fill.
Secondly, we should remember that while Madrid are arguably the most complete team in Europe—youth, depth and talent—they are far from a finished product and were unsuccessful in obtaining two of the three major trophies last season.
Finally, let's not forget that Modric plays a position (central midfield) where Madrid are arguably their most vulnerable. Be it the lack of defensive stability at the central attacking position (Ozil) or the depth at the two defensive midfield positions, Madrid have clear problems against teams with strong midfield play.
For whatever the reason, Mourinho remains unconvinced by Nuri Sahin. Modric simply fulfils the potential of a 4-3-3 within which many fans were expecting the former Borussia Dortmund player to feature.
What Modric does—and this is very important—is perform a kind of clean, efficient midfield shift that isn't reproducible by Mesut Ozil, in spite of his electrifying ability going forward.
Ozil is a nightmare for the opposition in the vast majority of games for Real Madrid; however, against very particular opponents—Barcelona and Bayern Munch, for instance—Mesut Ozil "breaks" the structure of the Madrid midfield too much, allowing the opposition to control possession.
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The seductive counter-example is the Barcelona defeat in late April of last season, but this ignores the fact that Barcelona were playing their alternate "shape" (3-4-3), which played perfectly into the hand of Ozil, since Sergio Busquets was ultimately forced to play two positions at once: central defender and defensive midfielder.
Alternatively, one of the more depressing features of Madrid's late-season campaign was the exhaustion of Xabi Alonso. With only Casillas and Ronaldo playing more minutes, Alonso saw a very dramatic dip in form last season.
Considering the drop-off after Alonso is Lassandra Diarra, Esteban Granero and a makeshift central midfielder in Fabio Coentrao, it's easy to see why Mourinho would have opted to sign a deep-lying playmaker.
Nearing the age of 31, the Spanish international, most assume, doesn't have many years left in him.
In conclusion, I think there's a massive misunderstanding about the Modric signing. He's not there to replace Ozil—if Modric does play his position, the likelihood is that Ozil moves out right anyway—nor is he of a breed that's easily emulated by any of the current substitutes.
A top-class signing if there ever was one.
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