You can almost picture the scene in the directors' seats at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez on Sunday night as Real Madrid slipped to a surprising 2-1 defeat at near-neighbours Getafe. Florentino Perez, the Madrid president, picking up the phone and saying “Enough already, lets' get the deal done.” That deal, of course, was for Tottenham Hotspur's Luka Modric. With Los Blancos already five points behind title rivals Barcelona after just 180 minutes of La Liga action something needed to be done.
The Modric to Madrid saga has been the longest one of the summer, and the only one as far as Blancos boss Jose Mourinho is concerned -- the Portuguese had only added to his Liga-winning squad with players from the club's Cantera over the preseason, with Modric the big-money addition confirmed on Monday morning, less than 24 hours after that defeat at Getafe.
Luka Modric passed his Real Madrid medical on Monday.
Mumblings of Madrid chasing Spurs' talisman stretched right back to the start of the year. Tottenham's Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester United had tried desperately to sign Modric last summer, but Spurs clung on to their main man. Still, the Croat had wanted to depart White Hart Lane for pastures new and despite staying in North London last season, his performances suffered as a result of wanting to be elsewhere.
A year on and Spurs, who'd missed out on the Champions League and parted company with manager Harry Redknapp, knew they couldn't hold on to their prized asset for another campaign, especially with him playing below-par. Find a replacement, and get the largest sum of money possible for their player was the deal and, after months of trying to finalise a deal, Modric is now a Blanco.
It would have suited Mourinho and Madrid to get Modric before their pre-season kicked-off, and get him settled into their systems and style of play, but better late than never. As things have turned out, the Croatian's arrival at the Bernabeu could have come at just the right time to boost a Blancos side eager for some good news after a less-than-encouraging first two matches of the defence of their La Liga title.
The second leg of the Super Cup is Wednesday, but don't be surprised to see Modric thrown straight into things for the visit of Barcelona. Of course, Madridistas would love the tie to be turned on its head and Madrid to win the first trophy of the season -- and the bragging rights. But after picking up just a point from their first possible six, an improved performance with Modric would go some way to brightening the horizon at the Bernabeu. Something to build on ahead of arguably the more important fixture, following the opening league matches at least, against Grenada this weekend, a match that could even be billed as a “must win,” despite it being so early on in the season.
"I'm very happy, honoured and proud to be at the biggest and best club in the world. I'm very excited," said Modric on his introduction to the Madrid press on Monday afternoon. A big boost to the worried Madridistas, some of whom attended Modric's unveiling, and possibly a big reminder to the players that performed so below par at Getafe on Sunday. His words could well act as a bit of a kick up the backside for Mourinho's squad, if the boss's words hadn't already -- a reminder of the pride players must feel to pull on the all-white kit.
They say good things come to those who wait, and in Modric Los Merengues have certainly got themselves a top-class player who oozes creative flair. Questions arose following the title success at just who could improve Mourinho's team after they dethroned Barcelona, many people's best team in the world for some time, and by smashing record after record in doing so. I'm a believer that there's always room for improvement. Never stand still, or you'll be caught, and in Modric Madrid have got a player who will improve their team. What's more, they've got him just when he's coming into his prime at 26 years of age.
Loaned out to Zrinjski Mostar and Inter Zapresic in the Bosnian league after a season with Dinamo Zagreb's youth team, Modric won the league's Player of the Season accolade while just 18 and also scooped the Croatian Football Hope of the Year award before returning to burst on to the scene with his parent club, going on to win the league and cup before Spurs came calling. There, he became Spurs' most valuable player, later alongside Gareth Bale, and helped them break into the top-four and the Champions League in a successful four-year stint in the Premier League.
There are still question marks over just where he'll fit into Mourinho's system. Those question marks won't be over whether he'll gain a regular starting role, however; he’s too good to be left out. It’s a question of where he’ll fit in. He's impressed across a number of positions in the middle of the park, from deep-lying playmaker to playing out wide and just behind a lone striker. He's impressed in all, although more so in the central positions, in my opinion.
There's a temptation to play him alongside Xabi Alonso in the deep-lying two, although Modric's build doesn't lend itself well to getting stuck in, and doing a lot of the dirty work that players such as Lass Diarra and Sami Khedira thrive on, and do as well as anyone else. Alonso can do that, but he's not an out-an-out defensive midfielder that Mourinho likes to include in his team, if they're playing the regular 4-2-3-1. Personally, as a big Alonso fan, that would mean including Modric in one of the supporting three for the striker. Cristiano Ronaldo won't be replaced, so that means a position down the middle, with Mesut Ozil moving to the right, or a position on the right, replacing Angel di Maria and leaving Ozil central.
Mourinho could also change his formation to a 4-3-3, with Modric fitting in the midfield alongside a whole host of options. That's where Modric excels, at being able to impress in a number of options, and his versatility, as well as his unquestionable skills, will be of big benefit to Madrid this season. My preference? First up, I'd love to see him alongside Alonso, with Madrid continuing with their 4-2-3-1 approach, especially for Wednesday's Clasico. More attacking options, let's take the game to Barcelona.
At Getafe, Mourinho threw on more forwards to try and get something from the game late on. Gonzalo Higuain, Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Jose Callejon and even young Alvaro Morata finished the game in attack. Ozil was the man left with the job of supplying the assists for all five players, and Mourinho had nobody else to turn to with di Maria coming off. Kaka wasn't included in the squad for Getafe or the midweek Super Cup clash, meaning we can probably expect the Brazilian to find a new club before Friday's transfer deadline.
Madrid have a new midfield maestro to look forward to seeing in action in Modric. Shining, and improving, in the fast pace of the Premier League should only make things easier for the Croatian in Spain, with a bit more time of the ball. More time to express his qualities, more time to pick the final, decisive ball, and more time to pick out the top corner of the goal. Mourinho will also be hoping he gives Madrid more time to turn around that five point deficit on Barcelona and change Los Blancos' early-season fortunes.