The Modric Affair: A Tale Of Control in Modern Football

Nasri, Modric and Tevez: Key Members Of The Itchy Feet Club

What is it with North London? If it’s not Cesc Fabregas, it’s Samir Nasri. If it’s not Nasri then it must be Luka Modric. Either way, someone must have done something really bad for the ‘best players’ to be seeking the exit sign.

Last season the Itchy Feet Syndrome appeared to affect residents of Manchester with Rooney and Tevez suggesting they were not content with their lot. Ferguson found the miracle cure for Rooney, whilst Tevez has yet to discover that he may have to continue suffering as the cure for him is far too expensive. Yet now down south, the disease looks to have become an epidemic, no better seen than in the case of ‘poor’ Luka Modric.

As the soap unfolds I believe the tale is as follows. Once upon a time the white and blue part of North London experienced the miracle of Champions League football. In that season certain players came to the fore as a tasty attraction. Among them was the man Modric. There is no doubt despite his lack of goals and assists, he is a fine player. His teammates knew it, his manager knew it, and evidently one or two close rival clubs knew it. What the rich clubs also knew was that with no CL football for Spurs the attraction to join a ‘top club’ maybe irresistible. He knew it, his teammates knew it and so did his manager. Thus, following a number of other high profile sales to ‘top clubs’, the Spurs hierarchy made it clear – they would not be selling their best players and that included Modric.

If the dude wants to go - and you can get a good wad of money for him - release him!

Luka was not too pleased about that as he was aware of a ‘top club’ who were very interested in him, and he was very interested in them. His heart was thus set on the move. The club was set to keep one of their best players. What we have here is a problem.

Some argue that the player should show respect to the club that gave him the platform to do so well. Having signed a lengthy contract, he owes it to the club to play his part and stick with them. Some applaud the stance that Levy has taken in insisting the player is not for sale. Some see this as a final stand to stop player power taking over completely.

My problem is on the concept of who your best players are. If a player no longer wants to play for you and you can sell him for alarge transfer fee it makes sense to just cash in on him. His desire to move on immediately no longer makes him your best player. For what makes a player great for a team is his commitment to the team as well as the technical skills that may impress. Modric is no longer committed. He is no longer an asset in the team. He serves the club best now in the fee that can be raised for him and reinforcements that can be bought on the strength of that.

Remember when the power rested with the dusty, crusty old dudes who gathered here with their sherry and port to deal with their players?

Isn’t that player power gone mad? No. The contract either secures a player’s commitment or it places a weighty price on his head if he wants to move on. As long as the case remains that no individual is bigger than the club and as long as it remains ambitious, which can be proved by those signings, then Modric can come and Modric can go but the club can still go from strength to strength.

So it appears counter-productive for Spurs to come on all high and mighty about keeping their best players even when they no longer want to play for the club.  Talk of heads being turned to explain why they don’t play in matches just suggests there is no desire to play and so for the best of all parties just severe links here and now and move on.  It will only be seen as a club lacking ambition if they fail to make the most of the window remaining to either get a replacement, or possibly more prudent, invest in strengthening other areas.

No player is bigger than the club - if that is the case, they should have no problem selling a player who wants to move on

I was of the opinion that we were dealing with responsible adults able to responsibly address any contention between themselves.  I was of the impression that the days of the onerous and rather harsh rule of the club with their hold on the player as a piece of meat were over.  In as much as Spurs can say they have been a help to Modric the relationship has been mutual.  So it makes sense that the mutuality is reciprocated in allowing the player to leave.  Anyone barking on about club loyalty needs to consider the level of loyalty a club will have to a player.  The concept is overrated.  What all parties are committed to is success.

For the club if that means sacking a manager – they’ll sack a manager.  For a manager if it means transfer-listing or blatantly ignoring a player then he will do that.  For an ambitious player if that means moving to a club that appears to be more likely to win trophies, he has to do that.  For the fan all he wants to see (or should want to see) is his team doing well, which is usually translated as winning games.  Now sure you want your players to be whole-heartedly devoted to your club and you may even have a soft spot for that player who plugs away chasing and harrying players for the cause and is not flashy or scoring goals.  That’s nice.  If that is stopping your team being successful though, you’d hope there would be ambition to change things for the better.  What is so bad for the player seeing a chance to progress doing so?  If a contract doesn’t stop a club touting an unwanted player to be able to get better, why shouldn’t a player want to do better for himself?

Reassuring noises from White Hart Lane seek to convince me that once the window closes and Modric remains a Spurs player he will be professional enough to crack on with the task at hand.  The club would have kept it’s best player and thus keep its commitment.  In the short term that might be positive, but it does not bode well for the mid to long term and it will leave the sale to be an inevitability that stinks up the place, rather than the clean air that would be experienced if the player is sold and then replacements who are eager to do well at the club are brought in.

It is more than about control, it’s about getting to grips with what really is best for the club to be successful.




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