Cristiano Ronaldo’s €112million transfer to Juventus caused plenty of shock waves but, given the rumours about his growing unhappiness with life at Real Madrid, it was not a monumental surprise.
The same could not be said about Luka Modric. Inter are said to have enquired about the midfielder and, more surprisingly still, it is claimed he is interested in a switch to Serie A.
Florentino Perez has already proclaimed they would need to match Modric’s €750m release clause to get him, but it is likely an offer 10 times lower than that figure would tempt Madrid if the player starts agitating for a move.
That might sound unthinkable to some. Modric, after all, has won three consecutive Champions Leagues in the Spanish capital and was just named the best player at the 2018 World Cup after helping Croatia to the final.
However, as Madrid prepare for a UEFA Super Cup clash with Atletico Madrid, there is an argument that, as with Ronaldo, now is the right time to cash in…
IN RESULTS BUSINESS, MADRID ARE BETTER OFF WITHOUT HIM
There is no doubt Modric has enjoyed exceptional success with Madrid since his 2012 move from Tottenham, winning 14 major trophies in six years.
And yet, surprising as it seems, Madrid have had a better record in that time – in LaLiga at least – without him in the team.
In 166 games with Modric in the top flight, Madrid have taken three points 115 times, meaning they have won 69 per cent of their games on average. Without him, they have won 47 of 62 games, at an average of 76 per cent.
In total, they have claimed an average of 2.2 points per game with the Croatian, and 2.4 without. They have also scored fewer goals (2.7 compared to 2.9) and conceded the same (one per match) when Modric has played.
It feels unquestionably harsh to boil down Modric’s contribution in such statistics. However, Madrid are a team for whom results are paramount, and, were Modric allowed to join Inter, the numbers suggest they do not have to be too concerned at life without him.
HE DOESN’T SUIT LOPETEGUI’S REBUILD
When Zinedine Zidane stepped down after winning the Champions League this year, it was suggested he did so to avoid having to oversee the necessary rebuild of a Madrid squad in need of new blood.
That honour has fallen instead to Julen Lopetegui. The former Spain coach’s appointment comes with a shift in style – and arguably no place for Modric.
Zidane’s set-up owed more to getting the ball forward quickly rather than patient play, which is a hallmark of Lopetegui’s system, and although Modric is perfectly capable of operating as a ball-carrying midfielder, there are others who suit the role better.
With Toni Kroos and Casemiro preferred in the axis of a 4-2-3-1 formation, and Isco, Marco Asensio and Gareth Bale better suited to the attacking roles, squaring the circle of Modric in this line-up might be unnecessary.
Plus, with two years left on his contract and a 33rd birthday coming up in September, now is the best time to get a sizeable fee for the former Spurs man.
HE MUST MAKE ROOM FOR THE FUTURE
The point about the possible size of any transfer fee is key. This is the prime opportunity to get a substantial sum for a player heading towards the latter part of his career at the top, and that will help Madrid’s plans to replace him.
Arguably, they already have the right men on their books to fill the gap. Mateo Kovacic is on loan at Chelsea but, assuming that temporary spell away goes well, he will return a prime candidate to succeed his compatriot. Dani Ceballos will also hope for a happier time under Lopetegui, having been on the fringes under Zidane.
If they want to sign a replacement, however, selling Modric now would help. Thiago Alcantara has been linked with a move and, with Bayern Munich said to be ready to move him on, this would be Madrid’s best chance to snare a player who played a crucial role in Lopetegui’s Spain system.
Beyond that, removing Modric from the squad – as well as the wage bill – can only aid potential bids for Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Eden Hazard, even if such deals must wait until 2019. A Paul Pogba approach in January would not be out of the question, either.
It would be no easy task to simply swap in another player for one like Modric, one of the favourites for this year’s Ballon d’Or, just as a stand-in for Ronaldo does not really exist.
But cashing in now would be the most efficient way to bolster Madrid’s transfer budget and continue the refit of the squad. Waiting until next year or beyond could be costly.