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Luka Modric – Tottenham’s Unsung Protagonist.

The Premier League is a division where a defensive, deep-lying, midfielder’s performance is often measured by how many stud marks they have left on opposition players. The stereotypical defensive midfielder will be a muscular, imposing figure that is famed for his tackling ability – Nigel De Jong, Cheick Tioté, Karl Henry are just a few examples that fit into this mould. In England a crunching tackle is appreciated like nowhere else. Yet, away from the Premier League defensive midfielders generally are expected to perform in a different manner. They are expected to be the passer of the team, a creative outlet that creates space and finds a simple pass, or at least a pass that they have the ability to make look simple. Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets are perfect examples in La Liga, Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger perfected it for Germany. In England these players are rarely publicised, tactical experts regularly argue the case of Michael Carrick for Manchester United, a player who supposedly offers very little.

Whilst Gareth Bale has regularly received plaudits for his role in Tottenham’s recent success, and justifiably so, and Rafael Van Der Vaart makes the £8 million Harry Redknapp paid for him look like a steal, further adding to the case of Redknapp’s “wheeler dealer” ability, Luka Modrić, at the heart of Tottenham’s midfield, has gone relatively un-noticed. Converted from an attacking midfielder to play as a deep-lying one by Redknapp, Modrić’s talents have been showcased in his new position.

Modrić cuts a rather unremarkable figure; scrawny and with scruffy hair he breaks the mould of a conventional defensive midfielder. Yet, there can be no doubting his tenacity. Against Chelsea he made 9 tackles, the second highest amount on the pitch – only Bale made more – and three more than his midfield partner Wilson Palacios, who’s tackling ability is held in high regard. When Modrić joined Tottenham this particular skill wasn’t widely known; a good technical player and supremely creative, not many would have predicted that the slender Croatian, who is only 5ft 8inches, would have adapted to the deep-lying midfield role with consummate ease. 

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The former Dinamo Zagreb midfielder’s best asset is, arguably, his passing range and this ability has come to the forefront in his new position too. Modrić completed 51 passes against Newcastle, in one of Spurs’ most recent games, and made an assist although the goal relied much on the brilliance of Gareth Bale. This was a considerably higher total than any other player on the pitch. A stat further backed up by his performance against Manchester United, in Tottenham’s latest game, where Modrić attempted 77 passes, completing 64 of them – over 20 more than anybody else on the pitch. He also played an integral part in Tottenham’s first goal against Aston Villa, where Spurs went on to win 2-0, spreading a 50 yard pass magnificently into the feet of Lennon and taking numerous Villa players out of the game in the process.

Tottenham are a side that have always been credited for playing an attractive passing game but rarely has it been this effective, this is certainly Spurs’ best period in recent times. Van Der Vaart has gone on record to credit the football that Tottenham play – I think everyone likes Tottenham and the way we play. It is like the Dutch style” – and it is certainly entertaining. At the helm of this is Luka Modrić, he is the heartbeat of the team, and it is no surprise to see him getting acclaim from many inside the game. Slavan Bilic, his former national team manager, has stated that “he is the best player in Europe” and Redknapp is also generous in his praise saying that Modrić could play for any team in the world”.

Spurs’ season, and year for that matter, has been a brilliant one so far. They have a good chance of maintaining Champions League football again next season and it is likely that Gareth Bale and Rafael Van Der Vaart will be largely credited with any success Tottenham have. Both have been in scintillating form this season and deserve the praise. Yet, Modrić’s role deserves to be heralded equally. Breaking the mould he goes about his business quietly but with ruthless efficiency. But the un-sung protagonist, it seems, would want it no other way.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. ABE

    24 January, 2011 at 07:19

    He might go unnoticed by the press, but Spurs supporters certainly do notice. On fan sites he regularly gets the man of the match ahead of Bale and Van De Vaart – and it would be great if Huddlestone was not injured as the two could make a wonderful partnership

  2. Hamish

    24 January, 2011 at 09:27

    Modric – unsung: “Slavan Bilic, his former national team manager, has stated that “he is the best player in Europe” and Redknapp is also generous in his praise saying that Modrić “could play for any team in the world”.”

    “Converted from an attacking midfielder to play as a deep-lying one by Redknapp, Modrić’s talents have been showcased in his new position.”

    You mean exactly the role Bilic played him for several years.

    Top, top journalism.

  3. Danny Salford Red

    24 January, 2011 at 09:30

    Unsung? Do me a favour, hes being lorded all over the net and im fed up of reading from him and Van Der Vaart how they are the best team in the league, have the best striker in the league in Defoe and the best Midfielders in the league in VDV and Modric. Funny how they have the best of everything and are on the same level as United yet we are top of the league and a mile in front. They are undoutedly quality anyone would have to admit that but I get the feeling Spurs fans/players are turning into billy big b*llocks far to early.

  4. Hamish

    24 January, 2011 at 09:31

    Oh – and the word protagonist means main or central character – the exact opposite of unsung in fact.

    Irony?

    Doubt it.

  5. ABE

    24 January, 2011 at 11:01

    Danny – not sure what you are getting so excited about. I am yet to hear any Spurs supporter claim that Defoe is the best striker in the league. Hell, we are not even sure if he is worthy of a starting place! After all, you guys took our best striker. I bet at the time when we raved about Berba, you thought we were crazy too?

  6. John Verrall

    24 January, 2011 at 13:23

    I think Abe sums it up. The point I’m trying to get at is how, relatively, un-noticed he goes by the press. How often do we here about Van Der Vaart and Bale? Yet, how many times had Modric been praised in the same manner?

    Oh, and Hamish I’m honestly not sure what you’re getting at with your second point. I do believe Modric is the protagonist – main character – in this Tottenham team but doesn’t recieve enough praise for it (from outside of Spurs fans)…

  7. Danny Salford Red

    24 January, 2011 at 17:58

    @ Abe,I assure you im not excited Fair point mate as its not the fans but heres what i meant from Van Der Vaart who did a similar bit on Modric also http://www.sport.co.uk/news/Football/49403/Van_der_Vaart_He_is_the_best_in_the_Premier_League.aspx
    and then theres the Modric “We are on the same level as United now” piece as well as plenty on how good Harry and Modric are. You have a fine side that plays great football the right way and i like watching you i guess all im saying is I think you are getting credit as is Modric and keep your powder dry till you do win something. Which doesnt look like it will be long on current form to be fair

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