The public wrangling between Modric, Tottenham and Real Madrid began on May 20 when Didier Drogba ensured that Chelsea, and not Tottenham, would qualify for the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League. It finally ended on Monday, with Modric joining the Spanish champion for a reported £33.3 million ($52.6 million) fee and a commercial partnership that should bring the total value of the transfer just under Tottenham’s original asking price of £40 million ($63.2 million).
What happened during that three-month span was the byproduct of a clash between a top player (in the era of player-power) chasing his dream and two clubs that are used to having things their own way. In the end, Real got its man, Tottenham got its money and Modric joined what many consider to be the best club in the world.
The saga actually started last summer when Tottenham rejected Chelsea’s £40 million ($63.2 million) offer for the player who was in the second year of a six-year contract. Modric tried to force a move by sitting out the first few games of the season, but Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy persuaded him to stay for another year. Levy reportedly promised to sell Modric this summer if the right offer came in. Everyone patched things up and Tottenham finished fourth in the Premier League last season. That would have been enough to qualify for the Champions League, but Chelsea made it instead.
By the time Levy fired manager Harry Redknapp and replaced him with Andre Villas-Boas, Modric had already decided it was time to leave for a bigger club. Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain were reportedly interested in signing him. Tottenham wasn’t interested in selling to a Premier League rival and Modric didn’t want to go to Paris. At that point, Real Madrid was the only possible destination, but Tottenham was adamant that the under-contract star would only leave on its terms.
Modric’s decision to skip Tottenham’s tour of the United States was an act of rebellion, which was dealt with swiftly and forcefully. Levy fined him two-weeks pay and Villas-Boas made him practice on his own for over a month. But the strike had little effect on the negotiations between the two clubs, and Modric’s reputation was the only thing that suffered.
Spurs finally sold one of their prized assets on Monday, but it shouldn’t have too great an effect on the club’s future prospects. Villas-Boas arrived in July knowing that Modric was headed for the exit, and his mandate to take the club down the road toward a title remains in place. Villas-Boas’ revolution is in full swing. Modric’s departure gives the manager more money to spend (although probably not the full amount), and it’s possible that Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho will replace him in the near future. Tottenham’s show of strength in the Modric affair is both an advertisement and a warning to all players present and future.
Modric joins Real Madrid as a luxury item. In 2011-12, Real won La Liga in record-breaking fashion, and it is aiming to retain its title and win the Champions League this season. Manager Jose Mourinho and stalwart players Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas publicly endorsed the deal, so Modric should get plenty of playing time in an already star-studded team.
Was Modric’s rebellion, Tottenham’s punishment and Real’s stinginess worth all the fuss? It depends on who you ask, but had no effect on the standing of the player and both clubs in the hierarchy of the world’s game. Spurs remains a club that struggles to keep its best players, but always sells them for full value. Real Madrid continues to stockpile some of the world’s best players in search of eternal domination. Modric stays the course on an upward trajectory of a career that started in a coastal city in Croatia, but was seemingly always destined for the top. So it is as it was and forever shall be.
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