Luka Modric Is Beginning to Look Like a Real Madrid Player After Difficult Year
The fact that he was only thrown on for 13 minutes of running around in the Madrid derby perhaps tells you all you need to know about how Luka Modric's role has changed at Real Madrid.
At that point, Jose Mourinho was still dreaming of overturning Los Blancos' hammering in Germany against Borussia Dortmund, and he was yet to be infamously cut off by British broadcaster ITV as he appeared set to open up about his fairy tale* return to Chelsea.
Against Atletico, the Portuguese coach had slightly undermined the derby by resting his top dogs and showing his eggs were firmly—and sensibly—in the Champions League basket.
Cristiano Ronaldo, admittedly carrying a knock, was free to dine out in the Spanish capital's fancy restaurants with girlfriend Irina Shayk, Sergio Ramos was nowhere to be seen, while Xabi Alonso and Mesut Ozil were joined by Modric in the Vicente Calderon's bucket seats.
It came as little surprise then when the Croatian was named alongside Alonso against Dortmund on Tuesday night, preferred as a more attacking option to Sami Khedira.
Despite Madrid's exit, Modric's performance continued his ascent from the depths of December when he was named the worst signing of last summer by Marca.
Fast forward several more days and another clever and industrious performance from the 27-year-old has added more weight to his burgeoning reputation among Madridistas.
Cristiano Ronaldo's 198th and 199th goals in the Madrid white helped ensure the challenge of Real Valladolid was seen off 4-3 on Saturday night, but it was Modric's deeper role that will once again draw the superlatives.
This time paired alongside Khedira, the former Tottenham man showed his former Tottenham form in dictating the game sans Alonso.
He attempted 16 more passes (66) than anyone else on the pitch and completed 89 percent of them (via whoscored.com), mixing up the length and variety to keep Miroslav Djukic's visitors constantly guessing what he was going to do.
Rather than sit back and bathe in the glory of that precise possession though, he was prepared to roll up his sleeves and divulge in action at both ends of the pitch.
Although his finishing was lacking on the night, he did manage to get forward to have four shots, but it was his tackle at 4-2 in the second half that really summed up the wave of confidence he is riding at the moment.
Alberto Bueno carried the ball to the byline on the Madrid right, but Modric's perfectly-timed sliding challenge was followed by an astute clearance and relieved the pressure Madrid were coming under.
It wasn't a particularly big moment in the match, but it felt like a big moment in Modric's Madrid career.
Since those comments he has certainly been on an upward trajectory—his goal from the bench at Old Trafford versus Manchester United was his platform.
It's taken nearly a year for him to get going, but his touch, technique and vision all seem to be whirring their way towards the level which made him among Europe's hottest property last summer.
Even before this weekend, Marca had scoffed at interest from abroad and suggested that his future lies with Madrid; Madrid's possibly with him.
Against Valladolid he proved again why that could be the case.
*quite possibly won't be a fairy tale.
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