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Luka Modric: one of the most versatile midfielders ever

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Luka Modric has been an extraordinary asset for Real Madrid’s greatest victories in the last decade, but Father Time doesn’t forgive anybody and the great Croatian midfielder, at his age, is no longer able of playing as much as he used to. But injuries and poor performances by other players have led Modric to play much more than what was originally planned and that could take an unpleasant toll during this season.

The great Croatian midfielder and current Real Madrid player is having a season that hasn’t been what is expected of him. Don’t get me wrong, I do not doubt of Modric’s quality (not even remotely) but, because of his age (35 years old), Luka Modric was visualizing himself as a player with a less leading role than he has had during his time with Los Blancos. Instead of being a luxurious reserve, unpredictably Modric is playing full-time this season as he used to over the last years when Real Madrid conquered the top of football world.

Why do I say that Modric is playing more than expected? Well, Real Madrid, for a few years, has opted for a transfer philosophy aimed at signing the best young talents before becoming world stars. To some extent, this approach helped in saving money and not been forced to spend crazy amounts as often happens to Manchester City or Paris Saint Germain.
Logically, and also in view of the financial issues due to the covid-19 pandemic, the club has tried to give opportunities to those young talents such as Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo, Odegaard and Federico Valverde in order to let me grow as top players and increase their values.

The idea of Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid’s manager, was to consolidate Federico Valverde in the midfield with Kroos and Casemiro, so that Modric would have entered in the second halves or play fewer games than usual. To this we had to add that the Croatian is already 35 years old and that his contract ends once this season concludes and his renewal has not yet been announced.

That plan completely changed on 9 November when Federico Valverde got injured. This event, together with the poor performances of Isco, has left Zidane with few alternatives. As such, the Croatian has been deployed on the pitch much more than expected being part of all the 16 games played by Real Madrid this season. This is an insane amount of time on the pitch for a 35-year old player who run relentlessly unlike other mature players, like Ibrahimovic, that despite the age (39-year old) does not put some many physical efforts on the field. The only other player to have that record is the goalkeeper, Courtois.

However, recently, Zinedine Zidane may have understood the risk of overplaying Modric adopting a different strategy: Modric has become a midfielder who, from a deeper position, can help in defense and create a lot of passing and plays without showing a huge physical loss. Despite this, as soon as Valverde is available again, Zidane may reconsider to deploy Modric in his original role hoping he will still be in good condition for the end of the season, when his skills and experience will be needed.

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