Real Madrid’s Luka Modric didn’t come out for the second half for Croatia on international duty against Bulgaria. As if that is something new when talking about the creative midfielder, but Croatia coach has confirmed that Modric was substituted as a precaution against injury.
It is common knowledge by now that Modric’s injury caused considerable damage to Real Madrid’s title challenge to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid last season as well.
Is Modric becoming another Arjen Robben? Perhaps not. But you could see why Benitez wasn’t keen on playing Modric for the full ninety minutes in any given match.
Benitez might get a lot of stick for his tactics but we should all understand that as good a manager he is, he must have an eye on the future derby games that would decide where La Liga title ends up come the end of the season.
Without Modric, Real Madrid just don’t play well. Not at all. Ronaldo and Benzema don’t get the ball as frequently and the defense is unable to get the ball out quickly either on the wings or through the center, to cause any sort of trouble against elite teams.
It has been said a thousands times before and should be stated one more time that for Real Madrid, it mostly comes down to three or four games in the whole season which decides whether the club can win any silverware or not.
Last season, Real Madrid atrocious run of form against Atletico Madrid caused it to lose out, in the end, the La Liga title and Copa Del Rey. One match against Juventus (the home game) caused Real Madrid to bow out of Champions League football as well.
And the common theme in all of those losses was Real Madrid’s midfield got pressurized and dominated.
So here is why, Modric’s injury, if it puts him out for any longer than a month, would be a disaster for Real Madrid this season just like the last one:
- Without Modric, Real Madrid is going to have to move away from possession style of play and switch to a more direct play Mourinho style.
Kroos and Casemiro can provide good cover for Modric but against elite teams when the situation demands someone to step up and be counted, they fail.
If Casemiro can keep up the form he showed against Atletico Madrid then Real Madrid might be able to cope with Modric loss by playing Kroos in a more advanced role along with Isco or James Rodriguez if and when he returns with full fitness.
Without Modric, Real Madrid don’t have a midfielder who can afford to be creative in the midfield. Modric has the ball control and the experience to sort out the mess that opposing teams try to create in the midfield to frustrate Real Madrid.
By switching to a Mourinho style, counter attacking direct football, Real Madrid will be able to, mostly, bypass the midfield side of things and get straight to attacking the opponents with speed and vigor.
Modric absence will be a big blow to Real Madrid’s ability to pick up three points in La Liga game after game because there is hardly any other midfielder who is as consistent as Luka Modric.
His technique on the ball and his ability to recognize the type of play that is required to break down teams would be sorely missed. Casemiro along with Kroos can only do so much.
Isco doesn’t have the composure to do what Modric does in the midfield where you get closed down rather quickly. On the wings though and behind the striker, Isco can prove to be devastating but let’s leave Isco on the side at the moment.
- With Modric out with an injury, Real Madrid’s midfield would be less comfortable on the ball and off the ball.
Like Xabi Alonso, Modric role on the ball is critical but Modric’s work off the ball is vital for Real Madrid to have any chance against teams that build from the midfield.
Modric ball control under pressure (especially in away games) allows Real Madrid to have possession of the ball in key moments of the game.
You know those moments. Those moments when the other team is wreaking havoc on your defense and you need someone to just put a stop to the constant onslaught by just holding onto the ball for a second or two longer.
Modric provides Real Madrid with that option. His calmness and assuredness on the ball relaxes the other two guys playing beside him so that the whole of the midfield gets organized in attack as well as in defense.
Modric’s defensive work is absolutely vital for Real Madrid to stop teams like Barcelona and PSG (to be more relevant since Real Madrid play PSG in Champions League in two weeks time) in the league and the UEFA Champions League.
With Modric on the field, Real Madrid always spend less time running after ball and spend more time creating chances from the back for Ronaldo and Benzema (Bale if he is feeling like it on the day).
When Modric doesn’t start for Real Madrid, defenders along with midfielder usually are only concerned with getting the ball out of danger zones in any way possible.
While that does get the ball upfield away from Real Madrid’s goal but the respite is short lived as the ball ends up back with the opponents who try to attack more. This vicious cycle keeps repeating till Real Madrid defense breaks due to constant pressure.
Modric’s composure in tight situations and his confidence instills a sense of safety and strength in the midfield which recharges their tanks. Real Madrid always, as a team, play more organized and with more chemistry when Modric is orchestrating moves on the pitch.
- Apart from Modric there is hardly a player in the current Real Madrid squad who can carry the ball from the back and into the attacking third without passing it to teammates.
That ability keeps opponents guessing on what type of attack might develop. Modric can play Carvajal and Marcelo on the wings and can dribble his way past players to make something out of nothing solely with his own skill on the ball.
There are very few midfield players in the midfield who can do that. Gerrard was one of them. Pogba is certainly amongst the best among them but for Real Madrid that player is Modric.
With Modric on the team, the defenders focus and attention gets divided amongst the front three of Real Madrid and Modric. That opens up space for everyone to join in attack and keep opponents on the back foot.
- Penetrating passes from the midfield to the front three almost become non existent when Modric isn’t stamping his authority in the midfield for Real Madrid. Kroos and Casemiro are very reasonable when it comes to switching play on the wings and distributing the ball around to keep possession but mostly come up short when it comes to making those killer passes that cut through defenses like hot knife through butter.
Modric’s unavailability would be a huge loss for Real Madrid. What that also means is that Ronaldo is going to have to pull his socks up and show up for Real Madrid the way he used to when he arrived at Real Madrid.
Ronaldo is going to have to create more rather than finish more for Real Madrid. He would not be able to depend on his teammates to score goals against elite teams. That will be even harder to do without Modric.