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The transfer of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid to Arsenal on the final day of the transfer window came as a complete surprise to all football fans. The arrival of Gareth Bale from Tottenham left Ozil surplus to requirements at the Bernebeu although clearly there were financial implications for the club to sell too. Another significant factor was the vast improvement in Luka Modric’s form in 2013.
The diminutive Croatian forward struggled to settle into his new environment under Jose Mourinho this time last year. He looked short in confidence and ponderous in possession which unfortunately resulted in little playing time at the beginning of his Madrid career. Eventually, through perseverance and injuries, finally gave Modric another chance towards the end of last season and he grasped the opportunity and was finally given a run in the side.
During his time at his previous club, Tottenham Hotspur, he was always thought of as an incredibly technical and gifted player but his assists and goals tally were well below expectations.
Part of this, however, was because he played in a deeper and more defensive role than he had done previously in his career and in International football. When playing for Croatia, he is given the freedom of the midfield which limits his defensive responsibilities. As a result, he has much more time as well as space which makes him more effective.
Certainly, when Modric was at Spurs, he was part of a two man central midfield which meant his attacking threat was limited. As a result he struggled sometimes to influence games simply because he was too deep. In the second half of last season, though, he became more comfortable as a playmaker who was capable of giving and receiving passes quickly enough to retain momentum.
It is incredibly hard to replace a player who contributed 55 assists during his three years at Madrid. However, during ‘los Blancos’ performance against Athletic Bilbao the performances of Isco and Modric certainly appeared more than capable of matching Madrid’s midfield capabilities in recent years.
The purchase of Isco this summer already looks like immensely good business and if Modric continues to play as he has started, their partnership will be pivotal to Madrid’s chances this season. With Khedira patrolling the base of the midfield it allows the Croat more space in which to link up with Isco and Ronaldo.
What was so impressive about his performance was his desire to control and dictate the play. He was always making himself available for a teammate and would pass the ball quickly and move into more space.
If Bale can settle into Madrid’s side quickly, it will be interesting to see just how effective Modric can be. His knowledge of the Welshman’s game should enable them to strike up an effective partnership quite quickly which would only improve the side even more.
With the desire and hunger the Croatian midfielder has already shown this season can only enhance his integration into the side. His performances have been very impressive and he is finally looking like the player he had the potential to be.
He has always had the technical ability to succeed at the highest level, but this new found hunger for the game could make him an even better player.
Written by Andy Hunter
Follow Andy on Twitter @hunter67980
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