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To renew or not to renew – Unravelling Real Madrid’s dilemma over Luka Modric

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Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images

12 December 2022, Education City Stadium, Qatar. That was the precise location and date when Luka Modric, yet again, scripted an unbelievable achievement with the Croatian national team on the biggest stage.

Despite having the title of defeated finalist, not much was expected from Croatia in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Led by captain Modric once more, however, they announced their prowess to the world on the night, taking down Brazil after engineering an unbelievable comeback.

Their captain, and the star Real Madrid midfielder, at the time, was 37 years of age. Yet, he played all 120 minutes for his country, led by example on the field, and was simply extraordinary with his every contribution.

They called it his final World Cup, but it was only the latest on a long list of ‘finals’ that had been prefixed in conjunction with his career.

Modric, over the years, has seen several ‘final seasons’, ‘final La Ligas’, and ‘final international tournaments’. What links all of them, ironically, is that they never really were the last time the magician graced the field for any institution.

Ageing like wine, it has simply been impossible for either club or country to refuse his services, and that lays the foundation for Real Madrid’s latest problem.

The ultimate dilemma

Luka Modric has scripted history with Real Madrid over the years. Regarded as one of the greatest players to ever grace the field, he has spent close to twelve years at the Spanish capital, winning it all and engraving his name in gold.

He has been the one constant through Real Madrid’s highs and lows, ecstasy and tears, and is universally loved by fans of the sport.

Despite watching former teammates move on from the club or being shown the exit door, Modric’s love for the club and the sport has kept him rooted in Spain.

The final goodbye? (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Several years have been celebrated as his final term at the club. His quality, however, never allowed an exit to materialise and he has regularly been the recipient of Real Madrid’s famed one-year extension.

The current term has followed the same trend, with many sources claiming it to be his last dance in Madrid. Yet, there has been an element of added conviction this time around, owing to a number of factors.

For starters, renewing Modric at 38 years of age for a further season seems like poor squad planning. The more important factor is the arrival of young and prepared replacements in midfield which rendered the department crowded.

The Croatian star struggled to adjust to the reduced playing time at first this season but has now accustomed himself to the new reality.

With no visible decline in quality, he is extraordinarily pushing for another extension at the club and has divided the board into two distinct sections – those in favour of a renewal and a sect against it.

Both options, needless to say, come with their own sets of pros and cons, and it is thus vital that Los Blancos make the right decision.

Weighting the benefits

‘What could possibly go wrong with renewing an in-form, evergreen club legend?’ one may ask, and there is indeed not much one can argue against it.

After all, Modric stands for Real Madrid and is synonymous with the club to a large extent. The veteran’s experience is invaluable to the manager and will be a massive weapon for the team on the big nights.

An added benefit of renewing Modric would be the mentoring he can provide the young and upcoming talents.

Ageing like fine wine. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

As a player who is aware that he is at the end of his cycle, the legend can help hone the club’s next generation of midfield heroes and help the team’s long-term project indirectly.

His acceptance of a reduced role only adds more fuel to the argument in favour of his continuity, for staying on the bench will not be a problem for the player.

Ancelotti will not be under much pressure to give him regular minutes and can continue developing the next generation as his primary focus.

The final point in giving him one more season is simply about honouring his contributions to the club and allowing him one final year at the club of his dreams and the chance to retire at Real Madrid, a desire that the player is said to have.

The inevitable cons

Keeping Modric on the bench for a hypothetical extended season, in theory, does not inhibit Ancelotti in any way as the player is willing to accept a reduced role.

Practically, however, it will paint a very different picture. Keeping the maestro who refuses to age on the bench is impossible, even if the player personally requests to not be played.

As has been the case this season, the veteran is one who steps up whenever asked and is capable of turning around a game even with a mere ten-minute cameo.

Will Modric stay or leave? (Photo by Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images)

His presence alone in the squad, thus, will deprive younger names like Arda Guler of experience and minutes in high-pressure situations, simply because Modric offers the manager a more reliable solution at times of adversity.

Playing only on the rosy nights when the team boast of a lead, meanwhile, will not really help younger stars develop and may hinder the manager’s long-term project.

Conclusion

The day Luka Modric bids farewell to the club where he has defined an era is not far away. Any decision on his future, thus, must be taken after careful evaluation of the team’s situation and the player’s contributions.

A sect of the club administration are open to offering the player one final contractual year, and the player is reportedly open to the commitment as well. Should talks begin, there will be no hurdles in its finalising.

There is thus an urgent need for the board and management to arrive at a consensus over Modric’s future and his role in the case of an extension.

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Features

Three talking points ahead of Villarreal vs Real Madrid

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Jude Bellingham, Vinicius Jr, Federico Valverde and Arda Guler were all on target when Real Madrid demolished Deportivo Alaves by a 5-0 scoreline midweek.

The win at the Santiago Bernabeu took the team to 93 points in La Liga, with the champion status already earned. The target now, however, is to reach the magical number of 99 points.

Tomorrow, Los Blancos step on the field for their penultimate league clash of the season as they lock horns against Villarreal.

Their opponents, currently placed eighth in the league, are fighting for a place in Europe and must win tomorrow at Estadio de La Ceramica if they are to remain in the race.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Villarreal vs Real Madrid.

Can Bellingham maintain the steam?

Jude Bellingham’s dip in form towards the end of the season raised many concerns in the Real Madrid offices over his fitness and physical state. A mini ‘pre-season’ was said to be in the manager’s plan, especially keeping Bellingham’s recovery in mind.

The young midfielder, however, started the team’s game against Deportivo Alaves once more despite rumours of him being rested and dished out a classic on the night. His performance, in many senses, was one that announced his return to form.

In 90 minutes against Alaves, Bellingham scored one goal and provided two assists as the game ended 5-0 in Real Madrid’s favour.

Furthermore, the former Borussia Dortmund star recorded a staggering 121 touches, 99 passes, six key passes and created one big chance. He also completed four dribbles on the night and participated in eight defensive actions.

It thus becomes a serious question ahead of tomorrow’s clash as to how Carlo Ancelotti plans on managing Bellingham’s minutes.

The obvious approach would be to field the youngster from the start and reward his improved performance at the weekend. Concurrently, however, there is concern over the midfielder being overused which inhibits the manager from such a move.

Will Bellingham start against Villarreal or will the likes of Brahim Diaz or Arda Guler get a deserved start? Only time will tell.

Lunin’s heroic exit

Thibaut Courtois’ injury before the commencement of the new season left Real Madrid with a crisis in goal. The repercussions of the blow, however, were not as dire as expected courtesy of Andriy Lunin’s exceptional performances.

Lunin could play his final game of the season vs Villarreal. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Despite starting the campaign behind Kepa Arrizabalaga on the pecking order, the Ukrainian international has done enough to become the team’s primary goalkeeper across all competitions.

Only Courtois’ return last month displaced him from the starting lineup as the manager prioritised bringing the Belgian superstar back to full fitness.

Real Madrid now plan on starting Courtois for the big UCL final at Wembley next month.

While unfair on Lunin who deserves the start, one cannot blame Ancelotti for relying on the player who single-handedly kept the team in the game the last time they featured in a European final.

With Courtois set to start against Real Betis and Borrusia Dortmund, tomorrow could well be Lunin’s final game of the season for Real Madrid and the 25-year-old will look to depart with a bang.

Momentum is paramount

Real Madrid have already been crowned the champions of La Liga, and every game that remains in the competition at this point only serves as a practice encounter for the big challenge that lies ahead.

Los Blancos take on Borussia Dortmund in the finale of the UCL early next month, and only two games remain before the season-defining encounter. A lot, needless to say, will depend on how Ancelotti manages his squad for the two matches that lie ahead.

Considering that the calendar is no longer as hectic as it was a month ago, the manager could well field his best XI against Villarreal aiming to keep the momentum going for his side. After all, it is paramount at this stage in the season.

At the same time, however, the manager must rotate his squad ahead to give fringe players some deserved minutes and balance the playing time of regular starters.

Los Blancos, at this point, are unbeaten in 23 games across all competitions and have the momentum fairly on their side. Maintaining it with a positive result tomorrow irrespective of the final decision on the extent of rotations will thus be crucial for the Merengues.

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