Why Luka Modric Has Struggled to Impress at Real Madrid

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 27: Luka Modric of Real Madrid CF (R) battles for the ball against Alexis Ruano of Getafe CF during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Getafe CF at estadio Santiago Bernabeu on January 27, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Praise poured in, the Spain players lauding the performance of a little Croatian who had just seen his side knocked out of last summer's European Championships to the holders and eventual winners.

Maybe that was the moment Luka Modric decided La Liga, and more particularly Real Madrid, was his next step, ignoring the alluring looks of Manchester United and Chelsea.

The praise unfortunately ended there.

Frequently topping polls, stats lists and filling fantasy teams while in England with Tottenham, the 27-year-old has been under the microscope for different reasons in the Spanish capital.

Spanish daily Marca recently named him as the worst signing of the season, just ahead of Alex Song, gaining 32.2 percent of the vote and forcing Modric to respond in Croatian newspaper Sportske:

"This is Real Madrid. I understand there is great pressure for signings to succeed here but it is very challenging to adapt to life at a big club like Madrid." 

Struggling to acclimatize to a new culture is one thing but his performances, by-and-large, do not marry up with what the fans at White Hart Lane were hypnotized by.

So what has changed?

Maybe it's the fact that he is far from a regular. With Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira preferred as the two defensive midfielders and Mesut Ozil as the attacking central player, Modric has been forced to largely watch on from the Bernabeu bucket seats.

In and out of the side he has started just 11 games in the Primera Division, appearing a further seven times from the bench with just another three starts and three substitute appearances coming in other competitions.

Being sporadically asked to go out there and do your thing not only increases the pressure but also prevents you establishing the rhythm and consistency that some players need to perform.

That said, even under those circumstances his form is far from that which graced West London.

Last season for Spurs he made the most passes in the Premier League (2215), the most in the opposition half (1756) and averaged 7.8 long balls per game.

Under Jose Mourinho he has averaged just 36.6 passes per game and although his accuracy is still impressive at 87.5 percent his long balls have been stifled, standing at 2.4 per game.

Alonso is appreciated as a fine deliverer of a long ball; that may mean Modric is instructed to bring other aspects to the team and leave long balls to the Spanish international, but it seems unlikely.

Unlike their managers, it is fair to assert players are given more time to excel. You only have to look at Kaka at Madrid or Fernando Torres at Chelsea to cite examples.

A price tag of $35 million should command a player become a regular, with this not the case the 5'8" midfielder has struggled to find his best form and with Mourinho's future in the balance, Modric's is too.

The Croat is arriving at a crossroads. He can decide it's not worked out in Spain and force a move—there would be no shortage of takers—or he can play this season out, continue the process of settling in a new country and show any potential new Los Blancos manager what he's got.

Madridstas have seen glimpses of his talent, against Ajax in the Champions League he was brilliant—a fact acknowledged by Marcaas he contributed to two of the goals and completed 90 percent of his passes.

The truth lies in two factors: acclimatization and the need for a run of games. In the Ajax game lies the answer: Luke Modric can still be a success in Madrid. If he hangs around.

All statistics via whoscored.com from here and here.