New Luka Modric Deal Indicates Stable Presence in Evolving Real Madrid Midfield

Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2014

CARDIFF, WALES - AUGUST 12:  Luka Modric of Real Madrid in action during the UEFA Super Cup between Real Madrid and Sevilla FC at Cardiff City Stadium on August 12, 2014 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

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. 

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

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. 

MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 19: Luka Modric (R) of Real Madrid CF competes for the ball ahead Koke of Atletico de Madrid (L) during the Supercopa first leg match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on August 19, 2014 in
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

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. 

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. 

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

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.