The football world reacted in collective shock when Di Marzio claimed last night that Luka Modric joining Inter Milan from Real Madrid was a real possibility.
Although just a month off 33, Modric has shown no signs of slowing down when it comes to performances. So far in 2018 he has enjoyed arguably his most celebrated year yet, winning another Champions League title and reaching the World Cup final with Croatia, where he won the Golden Ball for the player of the tournament.
Given the current level of his performances, it seems impossible to believe Modric would leave Los Blancos – or that they’d allow him to leave, for that matter – fresh off their third Champions League triumph in three seasons, to join the Italian giants, who last played in Europe’s premier competition in 2012 when Modric was still at Tottenham.
But the reports of the Croat’s move being at least a possibility seem reliable, so let’s explore some of the factors that could see Modric move from Madrid to Milan.
Seeking a new challenge
Modric could simply feel that, after six years in the Spanish capital, he’s achieved everything he hoped to with Real, and that it’s time to for a new challenge. In winning four Champions Leagues, a league title, a Copa Del Rey, the European and Spanish Super Cups, as well as the Club World Cup, Modric quite literally won all there is to win in club football.
The only regret he and those at Real Madrid might have from the last five years is the lack of success in the league. Since winning the league in 2012 – just before Modric joined – Barcelona have gobbled up four of the six La Liga titles, with the other two being shared amongst the Madrid clubs.
Competing in arguably the toughest league in world football, up against Lionel Messi and company, Madrid can be forgiven for their lack of league titles though, especially given they’ve had some painful near misses, and have obviously more than made up for it in European competition.
With Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane departing this summer, it has the feel of an end of an era at Real. After their Champions League treble, and with Barcelona and Atletico both strengthening this summer it could be a tougher year than usual for Madrid, who face a struggle to improve their league title record, while in European competition the only direction they can go is down. Modric may feel that now is the best time to move and try something else in his career.
There are similarities in the situation of his fellow Madrid legend turned new Serie A addition, Ronaldo, as well. While, as mentioned, Modric hasn’t yet shown many signs of being on the verge of a decline, the reality is that as he goes through his mid-30s, it’s inevitable he will begin to slow down.
He may consider Serie A the right move for his career as it approaches its twilight, where older players have traditionally found it easier to flourish because of its lower intensity and slower pace. For a player of Modric’s skill and intelligence, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him flourishing in Italy for another five years.
Inter contenders again?
Even before they were linked to one of the world’s finest midfielders, Inter fans already had reasons to be optimistic ahead of the new season.
Last season Inter qualified for the Champions League for the first time since 2011, after a dramatic final day against Lazio which saw them leapfrog their opponents into fourth place, following a 3-2 win where they had twice been behind.
That result was made even more unbelievable as Inter’s second penalty came following a foul from Stefan De Vrij, who was set to join the Milan club after the season. While it made for a dramatic narrative, it somewhat overshadowed the fact that in De Vrij, Inter had picked up one of Serie A’s best centre backs on a free transfer.
Given they’ve managed to so far hold on to Milan Skriniar, Inter could boast an elite centre back partnership next season. With Radja Nainggolan coming in from Roma, they also picked up one of the league’s best central midfielders as well, albeit it for a significantly greater cost. Couple this with the potential arrival of Arturo Vidal, the optimism is tangible.
Like his fellow countryman Modric, Sime Vrsaljko impressed at the World Cup and has come in on loan with an option to buy to strengthen them at right back.
With all that they’ve done so far this summer, Inter already looked like potentially the team best placed to challenge Juventus this season. With Modric their case would be strengthened significantly.
How would Madrid cope without him?
The other aspect of Modric’s transfer which makes it hard to believe, is the idea of Madrid selling him. After losing Ronaldo, one would imagine Madrid are desperate to retain their other key players, and they don’t need the money when you consider their annual revenues and the money they got from the Ronaldo transfer.
They are, however, seemingly already in a better place to replace Modric than they were with Ronaldo. In Mateo Kovacic and Dani Ceballos, Madrid have two of the most talented squad midfielders in Europe at the moment.
Kovacic has long been dubbed the heir to Modric, given he shares the same nationality and many of the traits of his senior. Kovacic has shone when given opportunities in the league where Zidane rotated, but hasn’t had the opportunity to establish himself with a lengthy run in the team.
There have been murmurs following the World Cup that Kovacic would seek a move away from the club this summer, due to lack of playing time. Given he’s eight and a half years younger than Modric, Madrid may actually see him as a more valuable long-term asset, and might prefer to lose Modric and promote Kovacic up the pecking order.
There would be some symmetry as well, if Modric moving to Inter helped pave the way for Kovacic in Madrid, given he was signed from Inter three years ago.
Caballos suffered even more than Kovacic when it came to playing time last season. After shining at Real Betis and in the U21 European Championships last summer, the 20-year-old moved to Madrid, where he made less than 500 minutes in the league and Champions League.
While he hasn’t proved himself to the extent Kovacic has, a player so talented surely deserves a notable increase in playing time. Were Kovacic to take Modric’s spot as a starter, he’d move up the pecking order and likely get far more minutes as a reserve.
With the addition of Champions League revenues next season, the sales of Davide Santon and Nicolo Zaniolo to Roma, and the sale of Geoffrey Kondogbia to Valencia, Inter have been able to afford the spending spree they’ve gone on this summer.
There could be room for one final big move, and they don’t come much bigger than the World Cup Golden Ball winner.
The reports of the two clubs negotiating seem genuine, and if Luka Modric feels he wants a new challenge in his career, then one of the most surprising potential moves this summer, could really happen.
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