Transfer rumours for Real Madrid this summer have so far mainly surrounded midfield options, with N'Golo Kante linked by Marca's David G. Medina and Paul Pogba an ongoing target, as noted by Sky Sports, among others.
While a new central player could certainly arrive, one current incumbent who doesn't have to worry about losing his place is Luka Modric, La Liga's best midfielder last season and one of the finest all-round attacking central options in world football.
The Croatian was a key player for Carlo Ancelotti, was first choice during Rafa Benitez's short reign and remains integral to Zinedine Zidane's plans now—a tactical and technical behemoth for Real whose role is as important as that of Cristiano Ronaldo or Sergio Ramos.
In Real Madrid's three-man midfield, a typical 4-3-3 formation under Zidane, Modric isn't just a central midfielder—he's the central player more often than not.
One will be deep, protecting the defence, one will have more licence to get forward and supply the front three in close proximity to the penalty area, but Modric is the link man in the middle who does both roles superbly.
The Madrid midfield has often lacked balance as they try to shoehorn more offensive-minded players into the XI, but Modric's willingness to work for the team and develop the defensive side of his game has made all the difference.
Toni Kroos as the deepest of the three didn't work as well as Real hoped all the time, as he was out of his natural role, but it's no surprise the German's form picked up somewhat toward the end of the year when he was moving off Modric in a forward-looking direction and taking possession between the lines.
Modric takes possession from the back four or the deepest midfielder, can carry the ball across the ground or play quick passes, and is skillful enough to be comfortable beating defenders one-on-one.
Modric's ability to link play so effectively, and be both shield and supply line, is borne out of his immaculate technical ability.
For a long time used as a No. 10 in his career, Modric has retained that vision and ability to pick passes between the lines as he has moved positionally into a deeper area of the pitch.
Modric placed 12th in La Liga for chances created per match, per WhoScored.com—but of the names above him, all except one (Koke of Atletico) were either forwards or No. 10s. Modric's ability to maintain such a high level in the final third, without neglecting his defensive work, is part of what makes him so valuable to Real in particular.
Through passes from deep, clipping short-range crosses in from the channels or sliding first-time passes into the penalty box: Modric provides them all, and he also provides the initial passes to others who makes those final balls across the area.
He is Real's instigator of attacks, dictator of tempo and possesses the odd long-range missile in his boots, too, especially from the right channel.
Off the ball
Modric's ability in possession and his importance to the Real Madrid attack is obvious, but the amount of ground he covers from a defensive standpoint is also critical to the team's ability to dominate opponents and, even when they face counter-attacks with frequency, still end up winning comfortably.
He will with near-100 per cent certainty spend the entire 90 minutes behind the ball, available for receiving a pass but also available to shuttle across and close down passing lanes if Real's own attacks break down.
When Real lose the ball high upfield, and the initial line of forwards either don't challenge or don't win back the ball quickly, Modric is often the one to break out of his middle line and attempt to force the opposition sideways or backward.
Otherwise, he'll maintain his place in the centre of the park, chasing back against counters and at times covering in behind Kroos (or Casemiro) if they are bypassed.
Modric, being the all-round talent he is, is far from limited to a single role and is equally at home in a two-man midfield.
Playing centrally in a 4-4-2, Modric is usually not stationed as high upfield, instead taking possession in the middle third as opposed to between the lines. However, in exchange for being deeper, he has more time on the ball.
Naturally, he uses that time particularly well, especially when Real have had inverted wide midfielders—Isco and James Rodriguez, predominantly—who attempt to find spaces in central areas, allowing Modric to play quickfire passes to feet between opposition midfielders.
As a result of that infield movement from the wide men, Modric will also look to rove into the channels to find additional space for himself, making him incredibly tough to pin down.
With Croatia, he plays as part of a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1 most frequently, rotating in when to surge forward or hold position in the middle.
Central midfielders often don't need to be versatile; they play a role and have the technical and physical prowess to play both offensively or defensively for the most part—there's even many defensive midfielders who double up as playmakers.
There are few, though, who can match Modric for the capacity to do both simultaneously on account of the intelligence of his movement and his reading of the game.
Of course, there are even fewer who match him for an ability to be a match-winner, thanks to his relentless ability to see a pass and pick it out from any angle on the pitch.