Chelsea and Manchester United will engage in an auction for the services of Luka Modric. Not ITK, just obvious, and something I’ve mentioned a couple of times since the season finished. He’s one of the top midfielders in Europe and certainly the best outside the top four, with the possible exception of Gerrard who is welded to his club.
Chelsea’s bid of £22m has been greeted in the Spurs community with howls of
derision, an insult to the player and the club. However, it’s merely an opening gambit in what promises to be a protracted negotiation throughout a long tedious window. They know they will have to pay more, a lot more to not only attract him away from the Lane, where he seems happy enough, but also to outbid rivals. City have come into the equation according to some papers and our CL run was an advert for our best men seen and absorbed across Europe.
The bid signals Chelsea’s intentions to Spurs and to the player but it’s main purpose is to flush other bidders out into the open, which is the main reason why Chelsea leaked it to the media last night. It’s no reflection on us: we’d do exactly the same if it suited us. Harry is hardly a stranger to the media and just because he says it in that ‘football man uncle H know something good when I see it’ tone doesn’t make it any different.
Neither have Chelsea undervalued him. They expect to pay up to double if he signs. The talk in the Spurs forums about their arrogance at offering such a low figure has meaning only if we are going to sell. He’s worth £40m at least in today’s market but to me he’s worth nothing because something that’s not for sale has no price.
Nothing has changed with this bid. Levy is the key, not United or Chelsea, Fergie or Abramovich. Media statements from player or club mean little either until the window closes. It’s up to Levy to resist temptation, same as it was last week and the one before. Luka Modric is worth everything and nothing at the same time. Don’t sell under any circumstances.
Lest you believe I’m being unfeasibly charitable towards a club I’ve disliked since my childhood in west London, my I’ve disliked since my childhood in west London derision is reserved for fans of Chelsea and United for that matter who are debating whether or not Modric is good enough for them. If you want hubris and real arrogance, read some of their earnest discussions. My advice, in the spirit of comradeship amongst my fellow fans, is to get down on your knees and pray, beg that your club is worthy of such a maestro in your creaking midfields.
Much of this is based not on the evidence of their eyes but on numbers. Look at the stats, they say, only a few goals and fewer assists. Not up to scratch. What really violates me as they spout this bilge is the concept of football reduced to a series of numbers on a page. I despise this trend in the modern game. No recognition of guile, beauty and power that makes our game the greatest of them all, qualities that Modric epitomises. Presumably those that query Luka’s credentials clutch clipboards to their breasts ticking off the stats on their puss-splattered pages as their acne rears up.
Numbers tell only some of the story. How do they measure Luka as he picks up the ball from deep, passes, moves, picks it up, pauses for a fraction then on it goes, and him with it? Put a figure on the relieved expressions of team-mates, under intense pressure who look up and find him waiting, wanting the ball. Evaluate if you will the space he creates for others as defenders cluster around him or as he moves to the ball leaving gaps elsewhere. Quantify the emotion as he lifts those around him with a precious combination of skill, perception and sheer dogged bloody-minded effort. Run the tape round his legs and torso or from head to toe: will that tell how far he runs, how hard he tackles or how easily he picks himself up after a physical challenge and just gets on with it? The notion that he is frail is preposterous.
Use these figures to dismiss in a second other footballers who weren’t so hot in front of goal. Ossie Ardiles, for example. Useless to all intents and purposes, yet who could turn a game not with a 25 yard thunderbolt but by running the midfield so that he controlled the pace and shape of the entire game. You want power? Right there, as 21 others played to his tune. Ardiles, a man who could not bear for the ball to be still, couldn’t hit a dead ball (apart from at Man U) but just wanted to play.
Stats? You want one? Work out who started the moves, the man who passed the ball to the guy who made the assist. Better still, wait a year and give him a couple of strikers on the same wavelength, who don’t throw down the picnic blanket and set up camp on the far post or who idle in the safety of the 18 yard line, but who feed off those little balls tucked into channels.
Football is an exhilarating, stunningly beautiful spectacle in the hands and feet of the best. Never lose the sense of mystery as Modric spreads the play 35 yards, threads a pass through when there is no room or sways away from desperate defenders with a single shrug and shimmy. If you think differently, heathens and philistines, oblivious to the sign of true brilliance, frankly, what’s the point? Maybe just spend some time and watch Luka Modric, really watch what he does rather than count. It makes the game a thing of great beauty and wonder, precisely what contemporary football needs. Let’s hope for Spurs’ sake that when you watch, he’s wearing white.