Friday, 11 March 2011
Why Luka Modric is the key to Spurs' future - in every way
I love Luka Modric.
Let me make it clear, I love Spurs more. One day, he won't be here. Spurs will. And so will I. That solid fact underpins all the dopey fanboyism that's about to gush forth. I will also avoid expressions like 'gush forth', promise.
Every few years or so a player comes along that has a visceral appeal. It goes deeper than skill or technique. You don't just want them to succeed, you will them to succeed. You make it personal. They represent you and something you believe about the game.
When they do well you're happy not just because it helps the team, you're happy for them (as if they give a fuck). And you feel vindicated. See that? That was my boy, that was. Told you, didn't I? (Even though no one disagreed with you in the first place). You have invested more in them than the money for your ticket.
For many, initially, there was Hoddle. The way he played seemed to embody the way we believed Spurs were supposed to play. Even his imperiousness was part of the package. Let's face it, in his era, we fancied ourselves a bit. And so did he.
So, when he shone, we knew we supported the 'right' team. And when he failed, we simply reasoned that when you consistently try for magnificence, sometimes you'll fall just short. We still supported the 'right' team – and he was the perfect totem for it.
Then there was Gascoigne. Fuck me the man was a force of nature when he first joined us.
He scored against Arsenal in his socks in like his second game or something.
He could destroy lesser teams at will but also relished the big occasion. He could dribble and drive at the heart of a defence with an unrivaled combination of power and skill. He thrilled us week after week.
That hat-trick against Derby. That semi-final.
And, like Hoddle, he represented us as a club. He was maverick, cavalier, audacious and loads of other cliches that are no less true for being over used. He dared and he did.
He never waited for the other lot to die of boredom. He could be our most eye-catching player just sitting on the bench.
I remember playing Man Utd in the last home game of the '89/90 season, when there was still some doubt about whether or not our boy would go to the World Cup that summer.
Bryan Robson was up against him in their midfield and Gascoigne completely dominated. In the Paxton we sang 'Robson, man of the match/Robson, Robson man of the match'. A searing, ironic commentary on the media and wider public's neanderthal belief that the Reds' box to box merchant should be the fulcrum of the national side. God we were a sophisticated lot.
And now there is Luka.
I won't go to rhapsodical lengths about his qualities, or tactical analysis of his importance to the team. I'm assuming you watch Spurs - and anyone who watches can see that he's the real deal.
What I will say is that he plays the game exactly as I - and hopefully you - think it should be played. The awareness of space and of where teammates and opponents are is astonishing. There's also something gratifying about the fact that he could bathe in a thimble and still need help getting in and out.
Now for the tricky part. More than Bale and more than Van der Vaart, hanging on to Luka will be the litmus test of our ambition as a club.
Bale, I think/hope will stay for at least a year or two, even without Champions League football. He came here as a young man, he struggled, he picked up injures, but we believed in him, gave him plenty of time and chances - and ultimately made him a better player.
He's still a young man, more or less devoid of ego (if we are to believe what we're told) and doesn't seem to be too drawn, yet, to the glamour of Man Utd, Barca, Inter or whoever.
Van der Vaart? Well, he was a nice unexpected present last summer. He tends to move around quite a bit. He treats the transfer market like the pitch, he kind of goes where he wants, finds space, doesn't get pinned down.
He's been brilliant, but I don't think he's settled and I don't think we'd be that surprised if he was somewhere else next year.
Plus, he dictates the way we play to a quite imposing degree. Basically, if he's in the team then we can only play with one out and out striker - and that's usually not a little 'un (Defoe). If we spend £20m or so on a must-start centre-forward, we become even less flexible.
What I'm saying is, if we can keep VdV, fantastic, and if we can have a team in which he's an option, maybe even a luxury, rather than an out-and-out superstar, great. But if he goes, our general upward trend can still continue and I don't think it suddenly makes us a selling club. It just means we've had our turn with him in our ranks and now it's someone else's turn. It will have been a blip.
But, Luka Modric...
Well, the Bale argument doesn't apply. Luka was already an experienced international footballer when he arrived. He doesn't owe us anything. This isn't his home - not this club and not this country. This is a lad that's been on the move since his family was forced to flee their village when he was six during the Croation war of independence. Yep, all true. Luka: The Movie's got to be a goer, right? David Spade in the title role?
And the VdV argument doesn't apply either. Luka wasn't an unexpected bonus who we've had to crowbar into the team. He was a shrewd buy who we've learned to trust at the very heart of our midfield and who has paid back that trust a thousand times over. He's a fucking little gem and he makes us tick.
He's the player that any big club in the world would want. Same is true of Bale, but with Luka, why would he stay? What would keep him? Without Champions League football, that becomes a very tough question to answer. Can it be answered? Maybe. By Daniel Levy and Harry Redknapp behind closed doors with Luka and his agent. But it's hard to imagine how that conversation would go.
I love Luka Modric. I suspect you do too. I just hope we're not going to get our hearts broken. Again.