BLACKPOOL ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22: Luka Modric of Tottenham Hotspur trips over Richard Kingson of Blackpool as he shoots towards goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Blackpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Bloomfield Road on February 22 2011 in Blackpool England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Luka Modric is feuding with Daniel Levy, and the Spurs faithful are freaking out. Most knowledgable fans agree that he's been the best player on the squad since he arrived, and his value to the squad is so immense that statistics can't get close to showing his worth. He's the main creator and engine for the squad, and since he's moved into the center of the pitch his influence has only grown. His departure would be devastating. So why would I be okay with letting him go?
In the beginning, it's simple: he doesn't want to be here anymore. Wayne Rooney's saga with Alex Ferguson this year proved that with some coddling and a fatter contract any player on the outs can find renewed passion for a club, but this one feels different. Luka Modric has never been a primadonna, yet he's speaking out publicly for the first time. Whatever trust he built with the leadership of the club has seemed to be broken, perhaps irrevocably. To keep Modric against his will on the squad could set a dangerous precedence for player looking to move to Spurs, a place where you can become trapped.
But just as much as Luka could be a cancer off the field, his impact on it might be more replaceable than we think. Central midfield is Tottenham's deepest position perhaps, with Tom Huddlestone, Sandro (his injury should not be serious), and Wilson Palacios all behind in the pecking order. Huddlestone and Sandro stand out particularly as young players on the rise, and if Modric were to stay one would be forced to the bench.
Modric is fantastic, but Spurs don't have the players or the system tactically to utilize him to his full degree. Tottenham is a counter-attacking team, built around pace and strong wing play. Modric is a player built to play the possession game, to be the Croatian Xavi. A Tottenham side with orthodox wingers and mediocre strikers doesn't give Modric the players around him to be his best. Luka needs cutting forwards and fluidity in the midfield, something Spurs show little potential for. Unfortunately though, the only way Spurs will gain the funds to make proper re-investment to give Modric what he wants is to sell him. It's a Catch-22.
And that need for re-investment is why Modric must go. Tottenham has two major positions that need investment: striker and center back. The striker problems have been long talked of, and the failure to acquire an improvement at the position in January means that Tottenham will have to pay a premium to acquire a class forward, especially now that the club no longer offers Champions League football.
At center back, there is a major gap in depth. Michael Dawson looks like a stalwart for years to come, but his partner remains in flux. William Gallas is old and injury prone, Sebastian Bassong lacks the class, Younes Kaboul is a tweener between fullback and centerback, and the youth players like Steven Caulker aren't close enough to being ready yet. A robust, young centerback is needed if Tottenham is to improve its defense that was found out by the likes of Blackpool last year.
The price will be imperative on Luka Modric. Chelsea seems the obvious location, but their initial offer of £22 million was an insult. Reports have surfaced of an improved £27 million offer, but I imagine it would need to get closer to the £35 million range to make sense for Tottenham. That money, paired with the likely selling of a striker for £10-ish million and some other players departing (e.g. Hutton, Jenas, Kranjcar, etc.) could give Tottenham the war chest to re-invest and strengthen, just as Liverpool did this season in Fernando Torres' departure.
Who should Tottenham go after with these newfound funds? To answer this, the idea first needs to come in addressing the new tactics for the side. I think after Redknapp's adjustment to a one striker system this year, the solution will come in shifting the 4-4-1-1 to more of a 4-2-3-1. Huddlestone and Sandro become the new central midfield pairing, with Sandro giving more support to the defensively-weak right winger Aaron Lennon on the right and Huddlestone giving dynamic late runs into the box. The group of three remains the same with Bale-van der Vaart-Lennon across the middle, but the addition of two defensive-minded midfielders in the center should give more freedom for the advanced three to get forward.
But the main issue with the new system remains the lone striker. On the current roster, only Peter Crouch has shown an ability to thrive in the position, but his superior distribution doesn't make up for his lack of finishing in front of net. Therefore, it seems necessary to reinvest the Modric funds in a true number 9 striker. The best man may be then Fernando Llorente, long coveted by Harry Rednkapp. The 26-year old Athletic Bilbao striker has been immense over the past three seasons, and his 6'5" frame would provide an ideal target man. Other possibilities remain appealing, perhaps Alvaro Negredo, Diego Forlan, or any other talented striker still in the mist.
Luka Modric is a fan favorite and a class player, and if he were to leave, he would be dearly missed. But Tottenham are not yet a gigantic club, and we need to accept that if we get exceptional players, they may want to move on to greener pastures. But one man does not make a team, and even a player as influential as Modric can be replaced. If the Modric funds are reinvested well at positons of weakness, bringing in fresh young talent to refresh the spine of the team, it might just be the right time to let Luka go.