In an industry of sharks, hawkers, filchers and knaves it should come as no surprise when a talent as big as Luka Modric uses the summer as a season of change to prostitute himself out to the highest bidder, but even those that deem every silver-lining to have a cloud should be disappointed.
The sight of the pocket-sized Croatian cutting a dash through the continent’s finest in Tottenham’s maiden Champions League voyage was as invigorating a sight as any other last term. Here was a fresh chapter being written into a grand club’s history but after the collective disappointment of finishing fifth, and lest we not forget it was a collective failure, talisman Modric has inched towards the plank with a lip considerably lower than Lady Gaga’s hemline as Chelsea’s cooing becomes irresistible.
And yet, it was only in May this year that Modric penned a new six-year contract to tie him to White Hart Lane to 2016. The signing of extraordinarily long contracts is a reoccurring motif throughout his career, as while at Dinamo Zagreb he committed himself to a ten-year deal.
“A lot of people asked me why I did that,” he said in a candid interview given earlier in the year.
“They couldn’t believe it. But the club came to me and offered the 10 years and I thought, ‘Yeah, why not?’ I love the club, so I signed. I spoke with my family and my agent beforehand and I knew I would not stay for 10 years.
“But I wanted to sign it to show I was not looking to leave, while at the same time giving them some protection when it eventually came to me leaving. That was the biggest reason I signed it, because it was best for the club.
“I think it is important in football to make a commitment to a club. I think the relationship with the club is important. That’s my view on these things and that is why I have signed a long contract here (at Tottenham), too.”
It seems peculiar then that after this selfless act of committing to Tottenham he has reacted with such ire at Daniel Levy’s decision to do just as he preaches and ‘protect’ his club’s interests by not selling, or at least driving up the price. After clear-the-air talks last week with a man known to be one of the hardest negotiators in football, Modric claimed that in breaking a gentleman’s agreement Levy had ‘disappointed, threatened and blackmailed’ him.
Whether there was an agreement in place before the last contract was signed is open to conjecture and only those involved in the deal will know for sure, however, to be aghast at Levy’s failure to act in a gentlemanly manner is laughable. Surely to commit to a long-term contract you have no intention of fulfilling is no different to a husband saying he demonstrates loyalty to his wife by not having sex with other women in front of her.
It may be that my senses have been dulled by the monotony of yet another transfer saga but even if my hearing missed Modric adding: ‘I’m staying for now but if a bigger club comes calling with a sackload of cash I’m off. Levy’s said he’ll sell me for three quid more than he paid for me, in fact, if I recall correctly, I think he said he’d deliver me to Stamford Bridge himself. On a white horse’, I’m definitely picking up the distinct whiff of baloney.
Hey Luka, I want to be the editor of Esquire and drink every night at the Groucho Club but life’s a b**** and then you move on. Of course neither is courting me in the same way Chelsea pursue Modric but if they were I’d be out the door like a shot. The reason, I haven’t just this year signed a six-year contract with BSkyB. I haven’t been cruelly tricked into putting my name on an agreement that would see me earn over a quarter of a million a month. They’re not ensnaring me that easily – I am a slave to no-one.
This shouldn’t come across as a love letter to a gallant Spurs fighting a brave battle though; it’s difficult to feel sorry for a club complaining about having one of their stars unsettled while Harry ‘he’s a good player and I’d love to have him but he’s under contract at X’ Redknapp is at the helm, but rather a call to arms for football as an industry to flick a middle finger in the direction of multi-millionaires who are swapping their agents for Kofi Annan in a bid to release themselves from such tyrannical contracts.
The old dog Redknapp is playing it well. By constantly referring to Modric as a ‘great kid’ who has ‘never caused him a minute’s bother’ he’s simultaneously ensuring the bridge between them on a personal level never buckles, while reassuring potential suitors they’re not bidding for the next Carlos Tevez. The fact Modric hasn’t done a Prince and come into training with ‘slave’ etched across his cheek is cause enough for his professionalism to be praised.
It’s not just Modric that tests the gag reflex of the average supporter over the morning papers though. They’re all at it.
Just last week Estanis Fors, mayor of Cesc Fabregas’ home town of Arenys de Mar and said to be a friend of the Arsenal skipper, could hardly contain himself as he said: “Arsenal have kidnapped Cesc and should let him leave England. Cesc’s family are very worried about his future because they want him to sign for Barcelona.”
Kidnapped? It’s not exactly Terry Waite handcuffed to a radiator in Beirut. Although to be fair I’d rather endure 1,763 days in solitary confinement than read another Cesc to Barcelona story. There was less of an uproar when Deidre Barlow did a stretch in Strangeways after an ill-advised fling with bogus pilot Jon Lindsay, with ‘Free the Arsenal one’ tees outselling Messi shirts outside Camp Nou.
Paul Scholes has suddenly found his voice after retiring his boots and last week was ruminating on the selfishness of the average footballer, lamenting those at clubs ‘like Villa’ who use international football as a showcase to cement a move further up the food chain. He’s probably right but he didn’t take his point far enough.
The Premier League has always been a carousel of talent that only stops off at the top four, but it’s getting worse. Since the dawn of time players have wanted to better themselves but with clubs of the stature of Tottenham and Arsenal in danger of becoming stepping stones to better things there is a genuine fear that the divide between the mega-monied and mere mortals is becoming wider than ever.
Where are the players with the minerals to believe it is their talent that can make a good club great? If Fabregas and Samir Nasri really are two of the best midfielders in the world then surely in tandem, along with the likes of Robin van Persie, they should be looking to mould a side around their collective abilities rather than perennially hankering after moves to clubs already at the peak of their powers. Is there really that much satisfaction that can be gleaned from moving to Barcelona and making the best club side in the world half a per cent better? I’m not so sure.
There would be no Rolling Stones if Keith Richards had joined the Beatles as soon as he realised he had an ear for a tune, while if Noel had a footballers’ mindset there would have been no Oasis but just the Inspiral Carpets reimagined as a six-piece.
And no-one would have wanted that. Not even Clint Boon.