With Real Madrid's midfield in a state of flux amid the arrivals of James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, the news of Luka Modric's contract extension at the Bernabeu will ensure there's a sense of continuity and stability in the centre of Carlo Ancelotti's XI.
Announcing the Croatian's new deal on Twitter, the European champions have secured Modric's services for the next four years, keeping the playmaker in the Spanish capital until 2018.
Real Madrid C. F. announces the extension of Modrić’s contract, linking him to the club for the next four seasons pic.twitter.com/kAm2gGrqLK— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) August 20, 2014
Easily his club's outstanding midfielder of the 2013-14 campaign that ended in continental triumph, the 28-year-old will be a key figure for Real Madrid as the team enters a transitional phase.
Needing to integrate Rodriguez and Kroos into the line-up, Modric's versatility and experience will allow Ancelotti to tinker with his team's systematic approach as the manager attempts to identify his most lethal configuration for the 2014-15 season.
The former Tottenham star is, of course, most effective when deployed as the creative central hub of the team, operating between the lines to link up with Los Blancos' devastating front three. Comfortable in tight spaces and possessing a surprising knack for skipping past an opponent, Modric's excellence is critical in unlocking defences that look to congest the space between the midfield and the forward trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.
Luka Modric: Of the 91 players to attempt 50+ dribbles in La Liga last season, Modric had the best dribble success rate (70.7%) #rmcf— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) August 20, 2014
In contrast to many other creative types, however, Modric is capable of adapting his skill set to other roles, depending on the personnel around him.
Comfortable when moving back to sit as the deepest midfielder of a 4-3-3, the Croatian can also join a team-mate in the double pivot of a 4-2-3-1 or operate as the dominant player of a midfield duo in a 4-4-2—just as he did prior to his move to Madrid when at White Hart Lane.
Of course, holding roles don't best harness Modric's talent, but his capacity to perform them adequately gives his manager options.
Indeed, that ability to remodel and adjust his game to suit the circumstances was evident throughout last season.
As Ancelotti's men dealt with the respective absences of Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira, the difficult first season for Asier Illarramendi, the change in shape to accommodate Bale, the repositioning of Angel Di Maria and the removal of Isco's preferred role, Modric was the constant for Ancelotti, keeping the evolving system ticking with little fuss.
He'll need to replicate that again this term.
1987 – Luka Modric made more passes than any other Real Madrid player in La Liga last season. Lung pic.twitter.com/GuHRVlapwl— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 20, 2014
Now joined by Rodriguez and Kroos in Madrid, Modric's stable presence will be imperative if Los Blancos are to thrive in this period of adjustment.
In the Colombian, Real have a precocious, out-and-out No. 10, who will either force Ancelotti into a change of shape or be forced to adapt on the fly himself. In the German, meanwhile, Los Blancos have a sublime playmaker most comfortable in the same role as Modric.
Neither, therefore, fit seamlessly into the system alongside the incumbents. To integrate both of the World Cup stars, reshuffling must occur.
Flexible like few others, Modric will be a key component in that process; the new deal awarded to him stands as recognition of his importance to Ancelotti's side.
The Croatian's value will also extend well beyond the upcoming season.
Amid interest, as reported by Simon Rice of The Independent, from Arsenal, Chelsea and Bayern Munich for Khedira and continual reports—such as Sunni Upal's in the Daily Mail—casting doubt over the future of Di Maria, the importance of the continuity offered by Modric will only continue to grow.
Elsewhere, Alonso's time at the Bernabeu will inevitably approach its end in the next 12 months to two years. At 32, contracted for just two more seasons and showing signs of athletic decline, the supreme Spaniard will eventually leave a hole in Real's midfield that Modric's versatility can help to fill.
It's Modric, therefore, who will help to smooth over Real Madrid's transitional process, capable of covering the loss of others while also being able to adapt to accommodate the club's new talents.
With a new deal, his employers have clearly acknowledged that, too.