If you’ve only listened to the doomsayers or blindly believed the tone of most Real Madrid press conferences this season, you probably fear Luka Modric and Carlo Ancelotti are at a breaking point. You can imagine that the Croatia international has been stomping around los blancos’ Training ground with a face like a thunderbolt, as their relationship heads to a bitter end.
Still, Madrid’s brilliant playmaker may need to send his savvy boss a bottle of Svrdlovina red wine (the best from Modric’s Zadar region in Croatia), plus a nice selection of Ancelotti’s favorite Italian ham (of which he admits to being a die-hard fan), if Ancelotti’s unpopular strategy. works Thoughts: Modric’s reduced playing time ends when he is in peak form to drive Madrid and Croatia to trophies next summer.
The three incidents have fueled a river of speculation that Modric may have had enough and move on to greener pastures in January despite recently renewing his contract in June.
First: It’s certainly unusual that this midfield genius has played just 392 minutes so far this season, and he’s made just four appearances in 11 matches for Madrid. Second: Some of the Spanish media’s insistence on prodding Ancelotti every three days about whether he and Modric have a strained relationship comes from well-received “leaks” that the Croats are annoyed by his sudden presence.
Finally: Last month, Modric himself spoke to Sports Novosti, a Croatian newspaper: “No one is happy when they are not playing. After a career like mine, that feeling is especially unusual. Madrid wanted me to stay and I got it. The same. Goal, so when I signed, the only condition was that they consider me as a competitive player and not just based on past wins.
“They told me there would be no change in my status, and that’s why I re-signed. But hey, coaches have their reasons, and I’m not going to sink or reduce my intensity because of that — quite the opposite.”
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After all, Modric is known to his teammates as “Mr. Vinegar” — a nickname he hates, but one he’s earned because when he loses in training, or especially in a big match, he sulks and doesn’t process the painful experience. So sad. That’s how born winners are.
I guess where things got really crazy was one of Modric’s rare starts – think of it as a precious chance to prove his coach wrong – against Atletico Madrid just a fortnight ago. Madrid went down 3-1 and our man was unexpectedly substituted at half-time for Joselu, a rarity throughout the Croat’s almost 1,000-match career if not injured.
Then, came Saturday’s performance against Osasuna. Not only did Madrid produce their most elegant, fluent, dangerous and productive football all season, but they kept a clean sheet and scored four times.
Modric wasn’t the only hero in that win, but he was absolutely the star, his “it won’t sink me, quite the opposite” attitude evident throughout 79 brilliant minutes.
The basic fact is that he was on the ball 102 times — far more than anyone else on the pitch, even those who completed the full 94 minutes. In fact only two players, Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong and Modric’s team-mate, Toni Kroos, have been on the ball more times in a single match all season.
More than that, Modric has made Madrid shine with 94 passes, more than any Los Blancos“The players have tried in every match this season. He departed shortly after finishing the match, with the result filed under “a great win and performance”, to a thunderous standing ovation, of which Ancelotti said: “That was typical Modric, quality, commitment and he deserved the fans’ applause when he took the pitch. left.”
The Italian went further, at least indirectly, by saying that the key to Madrid playing with such confidence, attacking fluidity, was going 1-0 up so early in what promised to be a tough test. (Los Blancos 1-0 down in five of their 11 matches so far.) No coincidence that it was Modric’s brilliant pass into the penalty area that found the feet of Dani Carvajal to set up full-back Bellingham to fire home and, according to Ancelotti, put Madrid in top gear.
Back to the point I made at the top of this column.
There are two main reasons why Modric demonstrates the nature of vinegar. First, he thought things would be the same as last season when he agreed to his contract extension — only they weren’t. He is not, and never has been, a person who believes or even wishes that the training ground environment is a hierarchy rather than a meritocracy. “No one ever gave me anything” is one of his favorite phrases; Modric knows that regardless of past glory, you earn your dignity every day.
He was upset because he felt the tone of his contract with Ancelotti meant that despite stiff competition – Eduardo Camavinga, Aurelien Choumeni, Kroos, Fede Valverde, Dani Ceballos and now Jude Bellingham – he would start most games, meaning it would be a regular 90. Minutes completed less. Instead he has to fight and scrape his way into the starting XI and so far it has been a losing battle.
The other thing is that all the truly “great” achieve their success because they have a powerful mix of talent, ego and street-fighting determination. Modric is full of all this, so to be blunt, his status has been shuffled. If he hadn’t been ticked off straight to his situation, he wouldn’t be Luka Modric who started his Madrid career mocked by the Spanish media (literally…Marca ran a poll where he was the worst signing of the season) so far. , has become one of their best, most influential and admired players of the past 30 years.
But here’s the point. Did you catch that status before? Modric is 45 matches away from 1,000 senior games in his career – a huge and exhausting number. At the age of 38, the statistics clearly show that he is near the bottom of the Madrid charts for most sprints, most sprint intensity and average number of kilometers covered in a match.
As of June 2022, Modric has played 75 times for club and country, and he has yet to retire from international level — he is still his country’s captain — including key matches at home to the Euro 2024 qualifying Group D co-leaders. Türkiye on Thursday and Wales next week. All of which makes it clear why the warrior-wizard needs to start thinking about what gift to give his coach at the end of a long, hard season.
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Last month in Dubrovnik, David Beckham Modric’s agent said something sweet to his ear: how sexy would it be if the Croat ruined his playing days at Inter Miami CF with Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba? Regardless: the way this word is going, you wouldn’t be a fool to assume that this could be Modric’s swansong season in Madrid. In that case he will want to win La Liga, Champions League, Copa del Rey or all three. In short, another signature season.
His remarkable career will be crowned by leading Croatia to their first senior trophy after defeat in the 2018 World Cup final in Moscow, finishing third in Qatar last year and losing the UEFA Nations League final to Spain on penalties in June.
Can you imagine Modric reaching the crucial, crucial months of April to July with energy and a burning sense of “I’ll show everyone” thanks to Ancelotti’s careful management of playing time? And then being central to his team or teams lifting the trophy?
I can and if so, then mr. Vinegar may finally have more than a few gifts to Mr. Ancelotti