A sad reality of football is that only players who score goals get proper recognition.
From World Player of the Year awards to Great Of All Times debate nominations, they always, exclusively, include player who attack and attack well.
When was the last time you asked a guy about the greatest player of all time and he came up with an answer that was a defender or even a midfielder?
I don’t know too many people who would come up with Roberto Carlos or Paul Scholes as their greatest player of all time.
Ask anyone about their top five players in the world (without even mentioning which position) and the answer is more likely to be Messi, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Neymar, Bale (this is just a random list, yours obviously would be different apart from the top two).
It is also true that attacking players get most of the media attention, more commercials and always get higher salaries.
But that doesn’t mean that football managers, coaches or fans who really want to understand the sport don’t respect the role midfielders and defenders play in a team.
Indeed, Mourinho and Wenger have consistently criticized the World Player of The Year award as they are of the opinion that football is a team game and even if one wants to dish out Player of the Year awards then at least the award should be for each position rather than a single best player award.
That is why I think that while Bale and Ronaldo may get Real Madrid the most numbers in shirts sold, but it is actually Modric who is more essential for Real Madrid. My reasons are:
- Real Madrid doesn’t have a Lionel Messi. No team has a Lionel Messi. No team has ever had a Lionel Messi.
And it is probably true that no team will ever have a Lionel Messi. Because only if you have a player like Messi, can you ignore your midfielders, attackers or defenders because Messi doesn’t need a situation to be effective.
He doesn’t need people to make space for him to be influential. He doesn’t need the ball on the wings to go past players.
He doesn’t need anything. Just like Zidane, the only job of other players (while attacking that is) is to get the ball to Lionel Messi and forget about the rest.
At Real Madrid, the player that makes the team tick is not Ronaldo or Bale, it is Modric. Without Modric, Real Madrid looks half the team than they do with him on the pitch.
- Ronaldo has lost a lot of pace and even with pace he requires certain plays to be effective now a days.
Ronaldo did play like Messi in his early Manchester United days when he used to pick up the ball in any position and get past several players before scoring a goal or assisting a goal.
Now, he is more of a Van Nistelrooy than a Figo. Now because Ronaldo doesn’t have any pace left with which he can take apart teams, it is Modric who has to carry the ball from the back to the front for Bale and Ronaldo to do something with it.
Without his influence in the midfield, Bale and Ronaldo would not see much of the ball because they are basically wide players.
They need the ball at their feet (or played in front of them) to be effective. Modric is the key between attack and defense for Real Madrid.
Gareth Bale was also the kind of player who used to make runs from the deep end but now a days he has lost too much confidence in his ability to be that kind of a player and that is just sad for many reasons.
One is that Bale is physically strong enough and fast enough to carry the ball from wherever he likes. Second, is that Bale is a left footed player which is a huge advantage when going past players.
As a result of that, it is Modric’s job to take the ball from Ramos or Navas or Marcelo and play it into positions where BBC (Bale, Benzema and Cristiano) can do something meaningful with it.
- Modric’s first touch and second touch is just exquisite. I think, after Messi, Modric’s first touch on the ball is the best.
Under pressure or not, his first touch gives him so much extra time and room on the ball that he is able to use that to his advantage by playing meaningful, cutting passes in front of him rather than distribute the ball laterally as most midfielders in his position do.
His first touch is also the reason why teams find it more difficult to play a pressing game against Real Madrid. That is most evident against Barcelona who press up really high.
Watch out for Clasico this season and if Modric plays in that match, look at the quality of his first touch even with players converging to his position at a rapid pace.
- His passing range and angles on the ball is top notch. He can make any pass with any pace from any position. When you look at players like Ronaldo and Bale, they look very awkward when they pass the ball.
Also, them being strikers they cannot pass the ball when they are being closed down. Messi is an exception and hence should not be discussed.
Modric is the one who is able to make passes from tight angles and under very high pressure situations which allows Real Madrid to counter attack teams that do press up against them.
- Having a great touch or a great range of pass ability is of little use if the player buckles under pressure. Modric is not one of those players.
That becomes very noticeable when Real Madrid come up against teams like Bayern Munich or Barcelona. When Ronaldo starts to try too hard and wastes opportunities, when Benzema becomes nothing but a wall which returns the ball as it came to it and when Bale is chained on the wings with no space, it is Luka Modric who is able to keep his head and continues to make space for his teammates.
Modric is the one who is able to find the front three men with his passing range on the biggest of stages against the biggest of teams.
- Modric can also score goals. Not at the rate of Ronaldo or Bale but at a very good rate for his position. He has good technique and has solid composure on the ball.
These traits allow him to compress his leg muscles and decompress them quickly enough with good form that he is able to score long range goals whenever an opportunity arises.
He is proficient at the curve shot and the lace shot. He can go for power or for placement. His range of shooting is more developed than that of Ronaldo’s.
That makes Modric a player who can create goals, create opportunities to score goals for other teammates and can score a few himself while playing in deep for most of the time.
- The qualities mentioned in the preceding paragraphs would alone merit a starting position for Modric at Real Madrid but that’s not it.
Apart from his attacking and deep playmaking talents he also has a good tackling ability in his repertoire. He is probably the only player in the world, including Messi and Pogba, who can attack with great skill and can tackle the ball with great skill as well.
He is not one those midfielders like Kroos, Yaya Toure or Busquets who only give the impression of a defensive midfielder but actually are attacking midfielders who have good stamina (and hence are able to track back a lot) and good positioning sense (they position themselves very precisely to protect the back four against attacks).
Modric can do that and tackle as well. He can be a ball winner when he is fully fit. There is nothing on the pitch that Modric can’t do.
- And do we really need to mention that all of those qualities would have little value if Modric did not have a good head between his shoulders.
There are many players who can do everything on the pitch but are never able to influence the game as much as Modric because they don’t have a good head.
They don’t play intelligent football. Which play to make in what situation is an art. Something which Messi is a master at and C.Ronaldo is a kindergarten child.
Modric, though a tier below Messi, can pick and choose which plays to form and develop according to the state of play rather than just try to pass the ball every time he gets the ball.
That is a quality which is rare and it keeps your opponents guessing on what you are going to do next.
Hence we see Modric go past players, dodge players, pass between players, set up other players and steal from other players. Modric is just one very clever football player.
Obviously Modric has his own weaknesses.
- He is injury prone.
- His stature ensures that he is pretty useless when it comes to air balls.
- He cannot compete with the huge midfield players physically.
- His legs are short which means he cannot run away from players at will with pace.
But that only proves that he is a human soccer player not a custom made FIFA 15 player. No player is perfect in every aspect of the game.
Messi is good at attacking and poor at defending. Pogba is good at both but best at nothing. Same goes for Ronaldo,Vidal or Zidane.
You can name any player in the history of the sport and you will find no one who is a complete football player.