The Ballon d’Or has caused some controversy in recent years with glaring omissions from shortlists and teams of the year, as well as some bizarre voting patterns and preferential treatment by coaches or players involved in the voting process. So, to try and bring some credibility back to football’s individual honours, we have created The Blog d’Or, where the writers of The Blog FC have whittled down a 50-man longlist to countdown the real best 23 players of the calendar year. The countdown continues here.
The Blog d’Or #14
By Christopher Schipp
If you had never seen Luka Modric play, it would be difficult to pick what position would suit him best. Most guesses would probably isolate him as a winger, or a wide midfielder. Gawky, short and weighing just 65 kilograms it is hard to see him pulling the strings from central midfield.
That must have been what Real Madrid fans thought on his arrival from English side Tottenham, as he was voted the worst signing in La Liga in 2012 by Spanish newspaper Marca. You can sense the thoughts running through the Madrid fans’ heads when he signed – “We paid £30 million for that?!” By the end of 2014 however, Modric had installed himself as a firm fan favourite and is 14th position in the Blog d’Or.
The 29-year-old was vital to the successes of Real Madrid in 2014. Playing not as a traditional defensive midfielder, nor as a number ten, Modric was responsible for dictating the tempo of games. Alongside Xabi Alonso, it was rare to see Real Madrid lose control of a game as two of the classiest, deep-lying playmakers in the game would combine to supply the mercurial attacking talent in front of them. In the Champions League campaign in particular, Modric completed an astonishing 92% of his passes, roaming through all thirds of the pitch and linking play together.
Statistics can tell never tell the full story of Modric’s game however. Goals and assists are usually shared among the likes of Ronaldo and Bale, but the guile and cleverness of Modric mean that he is usually very important in the lead up of creating chances.
Modric is also a favourite of his fellow players and manager.
“He’s been playing the best football of his career this season,” says Cristiano Ronaldo when speaking of his 2013/14 season.
“It isn’t just that he plays amazing football. It’s that he does so consistently, and that isn’t easy in Spain or at this club.”
Ancelotti heaps even more prize on the little Croatian: “He’s a more dynamic player than Pirlo is.”
Possibly the greatest compliment that can be paid to Modric is that he helps make Madrid still defensively solid, while most other teammates are far more interested in going forward. The Galactico transfer policy has focused on bringing in some of the best attacking talent in the world, and Ronaldo/Bale/James give Real Madrid some incredible firepower. Modric is the balance, the man tasked to provide the tempo and keep the game ticking over despite however lopsided the team-sheet looks.
Jurgen Klopp once claimed that Real Madrid had an “Alonso-dependence” when the midfielder helped to claim the Copa Del Ray and the Champions League for Real Madrid in 2014. That ‘dependence’ now looks incorrect as Real Madrid continue to be one of the leading teams in European football without Alonso.
If anything, Real Madrid now have a ‘Modric-dependence’.