It is a summer like any other in Real Madrid. Florentino Perez is enjoying employing his often-tested recipe, packing the Santiago Bernabeu's changing room with huge attacking (and marketing) potential.
One of the biggest stars of 2014 World Cup Toni Kroos has already landed in Madrid, while the other, James Rodriguez, is expect to be presented soon—perhaps before Wednesday.
Rodriguez thrilled the world with his brilliant attacking performances in Brazil, where he scored six goals and captured the Golden Boot (and goal of the tournament award), while Kroos was one of the architects of the German title march this summer. Obviously, both will be great additions to Ancelotti's midfield, and it is not difficult to imagine them in any projected starting 11 for the next season.
However, their arrival in the Spanish capital raises another summer constant around Madrid, another persistent question: Who now has to leave Real Madrid to make way?
Striker Alvaro Morata has already moved his personal belongings to Turin, where he'll try his luck with Juventus. But the addition of Kroos and Rodriguez means that the candidacy for places in the middle of the pitch is crowded and that some others may look for a departure as the only solution. Angel Di Maria, Isco and Asier Illarramendi were all linked to a transfer away from Madrid this summer.
Despite good performances in the World Cup, the name of Sami Khedira is another found among those who could leave Madrid this summer. What is more, it looked like his transfer to Arsenal was a done deal few days ago but, even though this eventually collapsed, per the Daily Star (h/t Squawka), it would be difficult to expect him to stay at Bernabeu.
He was one of the regulars under Jose Mourinho, where his unorthodox style was perfect for the Special One's vision of Real Madrid. Khedira kept his place with Carlo Ancelotti in charge, but last season was disrupted by an injury that kept him away from the pitch from November until May.
At the same time, Luka Modric, who was voted "the worst signing in La Liga of 2012" by Marca readers, (as reported by Daily Mail), imposed himself as one of the key parts of Real Madrid's midfield. The Croatian superstar, who arrived at Madrid from Spurs back in 2012, was settled deeper than before, taking the role of linking the defence with the attacking part of this team. Modric was the one to dictate the tempo of Real's game and give it fluidity, becoming the true bandmaster.
He is the one to set the rhythm of how Madrid plays.
Of course, it is difficult to compare two players, since Khedira missed most of the season, but even before his injury and long healing process, Modric was the player that was more useful in both directions. Even though the Croat is considered to be more offensive than Khedira—who is often regarded as a box-to-box midfielder with a strong defensive contribution—Modric's influence in both directions was bigger than Khedira's.
Last season, according to WhoScored.com stats, Modric averaged 2.1 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game in La Liga (and fared even better in the Champions League), which is significantly better than Khedira’s 0.6 tackles and 0.9 interceptions. This pattern is repeated in the attacking part of the game, where Modric averaged more key passes, dribbles and was fouled more than the German.
Sometimes the statistics can be misleading and it is worth stating that the two players mostly had different roles in last season’s Madrid team, but overall Modric left the better impression and his value to Carlo Ancelotti is way bigger than Khedira’s. He may not look as strong as Sami, but the Croat controls the tempo, creates chances and he is much more dangerous in front the opposition’s goal, while still contributing heavily in the defensive part of the game.
The most difficult task is now in front of Ancelotti, who'll have to find a way to perfectly use his team's attacking potential, while still being secure and avoiding being overly exposed at the back. But, the Italian is often adept at shifting systems to get the best from his stars and he'll have to do that again. Despite the fact that Khedira’s partnership with Kroos looked good in the World Cup—especially in the Brazil match—it is difficult, if not impossible, to see Khedira staying at Modric's cost.
Simply, in this moment, Luka Modric is a better and more useful player to Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid than Sami Khedira.
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