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Was Luka Modric right to ask not to play?

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The Guardian reported after Sunday’s match against Manchester City that Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric asked manager Harry Redknapp not to play. Allegedly, the Croatian said his “head was not right”, echoing Redknapp’s own words on the player from only a week before.

That Spurs were defeated 5-1 at home (by a rampant City) is relevant, no matter how much players like Benoit Assou-Ekotto insist that Modric’s desire for a move to crosstown neighbours Chelsea has not distracted them. Captain Ledley King has stated that such speculation doesn’t help steady a ship destabilised by a summer’s pursuit by Russian money and Champions’ League football.

Looking at his request in the most generous light, he asked his manager to omit him knowing his head was turned and he wouldn’t be able to give his full efforts. Looking through the selfish window, he left his teammates out to dry – as arguably Spurs’ best player and chief midfield creator.

Which position was correct is still up for debate. Whether this influences any potential move also remains to be seen. Knowing the wiles of agents, there is likely a connection between the request and any impending transfer.

Sochaux forward Modibo Maiga has also recently refused to play for his team as he angled for a move to Newcastle United. While a very different situation, he too must ask if he will enjoy his teammates confidence should he play for Les Lionceaux again.  Once such a drastic move is made, questions of repetition are often asked much, much later should similar circumstances present again.  Form is a powerful indicator.

Certainly a player should have the right to withdraw his services from a game should he feel not psychologically prepared to play. In such a situation though, he should prepare to forfeit a percentage of his wages – as this unpreparedness is partly as a result of a professional desire to move employers. Many of us don’t wish to continue working for our current employers, yet have to front up to work every day, lest we are punished or replaced.

However, it is his responsibility to be prepared to play – mentally as well as physically. Potential replacement Scott Parker chose to play last year only days after the death of his father. Teammate Jack Collison did so a year prior. If ever a player is to be unable to give his best, it is surely in circumstances such as these. Whatever happens between now and deadline day, Luka Modric will be at a successful club, a multi-millionaire and key player for his country. While his move will disadvantage him somewhat, it won’t in any way kill his career – especially as there are future transfer windows.

It’s also a situation that could well have been avoided. This is a multifactorial situation in which Redknapp, whose comments can’t really have helped his player; Daniel Levy, who has refused to sell the jewel in his transfer crown; and a Chelsea administration who have made a series of bids for the player. Levy has once before held on to a wantaway star, when he sold Dimitar Berbatov to United for a little over 30 million pounds – however, the constant speculation cost the team a positive start to the season and Juande Ramos his job.

Due to the complex nature of this problem, it is impossible to judge whether Modric was correct in his assertion that his head wasn’t in the right place. Should it prove a posture in a transfer negotiation, his words will reflect poorly on him. If he really cannot get his mental framework in sufficient order to avoid aggravation in this situation, it’s probably correct to evaluate his mental toughness in a new light.

Whether his teammates are willing to endow him with their full trust is very much down to the individual. It’s likely all have some sympathy for his stance and his headspace. They are all aware now – if they weren’t before – that it is unlikely they share the same goals.

As a player, Luka Modric deserves Champions’ League football, but like an NBA title, World Cup winners’ medal or just a domestic title, such honours don’t complete players. It’s time for us, as a football public, to stop using trophies or awards won as the best method of evaluating players. Trophies are great. But so are teammates and good club, and only (at best) the players from twelve clubs will actually really compete for a title this season across the four major European leagues.

Perhaps only his performances – for Chelsea or Spurs – in the next few weeks will finally reveal how distracted he has been. Either way, by keeping him past the deadline, Spurs are gambling – on a return-to-form, sell-on price not falling and his continued happiness.

Matthew Wood contributes regularly to Soccerlens.  You can find more of his analysis and commentary at Balanced Sports, or follow him on Twitter @balanced_sports

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Comments (25)

  1. Luka is behaving like a as.hole. He must remember he has got a contract to the club. While there is discussion going on about his future he should carry on playing till he & the club reach an agreement. You can’t just put oools down. You are not respecting your club. You don’t expect Spurs to cash in and start looking for a player to replace him. The club must suffer because he got up one morning and decided he wants to play for Chelsea. Soory that does not work that way. LEVY is right in his actions.

    • he wants to go, what the point playing for a club and his heart aint there anymore? this happens all over the world da why there is a transfer request form to fill out? this is modern days football, i think Modric shud go, him staying will be bad for the clubs and players coz the atmosphere wont be as good and Luka Modric will be playing regreting too, in face, he didnt wanna play against united and city, he wants to leave and he shud leave

  2. He accepted a SIX year contract to plat for Tottenham at a very handsome weekly salary. He is as bad as the underhand Chelsea tappers and I hope Levy doesn’t give him the move. He is supposed to be a manand oh dear “his head isn’t right”. I wairt for the time that the Premier League and FA grow a pair and put svere sanctions on those that subvert the rule of law in football. Chelsea continualkly break not only the spirit of the law but the law itself. Stick him in the stands and fine him.

  3. Most certainly not!
    He is a contracted player recieving wages to do a job, and his employer has every right to expect him to do this. I bet he hasn’t told Croatia that he can’t play for them against Malta in the European Championship qualifier because his head is not in the right place.

  4. to me he is disrupting the team , i hope he goes asap !! i like the idea of sticking him the stands or let him clean some boots !! pps im not blaming him for our lose against city ,they were like robots !!

  5. pps , harry should not have played crouch , lets hope he goes as well , roll on adibayor ,we will know what is happening @spurs after the v hard game we have @wolves , bring on liverpool , again as last year we have loads of chances , but we cant put the ball in the net , i was shell shocked against man utd we could have gone 2-0 up , already this is going to be a very testing season for the spurs .

  6. if he doesn’t feel like playing, we should feel like not paying him. Not being funny but why is harry entertaining him,modders has a contract levy said he’s not being sold , man up.just the way chelsea has dealt with there business ,which is tapping up by f.a rules. But because its chelsea,man u,man c,these rules are aloud to be bent to suit them.money is the key to everything,not the love of the game.loyalty is something you get from tescos for spending your money on groceries.

  7. At the moment, Spurs pay his wages. He is contracted to play FOR them when selected. Until there is an agreement between the two clubs to sell his services, he must play for the employer who pays his substantial wages.

  8. If he is fit he has NO RIGHT to ask not to play, it’s his job.
    If I was to phone my boss and said “ooh i’m not in the frame of mind for work today”, i’d not get paid.
    Besides, Nasri knew he’d be going to Man City but still put in a good shift for Arsenal against Liverpool.
    Modric is acting like the sneaky rat he looks like!

  9. Contracts are no longer meant to tie a player down – rather, they have become just another method of raising the valuation stakes. Over the last five years, how many players have seen out their contracts at the clubs they signed for in the first place?

    TBH, I find it quite funny (and mildly hypocritical) when we ‘fans’ turn a blind eye to the existence of the very same contracts when players are deemed surplus to requirements. Double standards, anyone?

    In all probability, the SIX year contract was probably signed BEFORE any interest from CFC. Had Luka known about the CF interest, maybe he would have declined to sign the contract. Ifs and buts, yes, but food for thought nevertheless…

    Or maybe, just maybe, it was signed knowing CFC would come in and get Luka for a (relatively) knocked-down price. Again, ifs & buts, but food for thought, nevertheless…

    Disclaimer: I am a CFC supporter but also a football-lover who feels saddened by the whole Levy-Modric-Chelsea transfer saga. :)

    • News to me mate. You might like to explain that to my Bank, my mobile phone company etc.

      Then again are you aware the Premier League is a company?

      • I am aware of that, yes.

        However, that still doesn’t answer my question: How many players have seen out their contracts?

        Heck, the manager we (CFC) ‘bought’ in was through payment of a ‘release clause’ – he didn’t complete his contract at his previous club!

        IMHO, the inclusion of a ‘release clause’ in a contract is ironic AND paradoxical as it breaks the very purpose of a ‘contract’. It was to this effect that I mentioned it as being the escape route players and clubs build for themselves.

        Looking forward to your opinion. :)

  10. ha ha ha stupid Tottenham good luck getting anyone worth anything to come play for your stupid chairman when he renege on agreements with players. ya good idea hold a player hostage and still be weak in mid field and have no money to bring reinforcements .big mistake from Tottenham i see you not making the europa league . is levy right to stick to his guns ummm no his ego is going to bring nothing but hardship and sorrow to his fans .you will keep modric on “principle” and Chelsea will find some one else and prosper ,

  11. The Chairman made a verbal agreement with Modric and there is a witness to that agreement. It is not about money. Consider the moves made by the Spurs. Modric is a workhorse in that midfield but when he has to come back and play as a defender, constantly, then it does not make sense. Putting in a 40 year old goalkeeper does not make much sense either. What is happening to the Spurs’ youth? They are being traded and Redknapp is bringing in experience. Well, experience does not have the legs in this league.
    Before hanging Modric let us face the fact that Chairman Mao (Levy) has threatened Modric on at least two occasions. Sorry, but this is not China. That is no way to motivate a great player. The “chairman” is getting the fruit of his own words. The chairman needs to eat some humble pie.

  12. Matt are you a fool?

    It’s an emotive but legitimate question.

    Employment contracts for the vast majority of the working population are not fixed term and consequently do not offer anything like fix term contracts that Luka Modric enjoys (despite widely the held belief to the contrary).

    There are all types of contracts and there are onerous penalties for breaking them. Try breaching a mobile phone contract or reclaiming for storm damage on home insurance and the facts of life will be spelt out to you very quickly.

    Modric asked not to play two hours before kick off – This was just a tactic to breach a deal that will net him as much as 18 million before tax over six years.

    Now the situation is that if Modric, his advisors and CHelsea can engineer a move maybe 10 million below Tottenham’s valuation then Spurs fan effectively subsidise Chelsea fans and are cheated.

    A few weeks ago London was ablaze and looted – Why? Because the looters could get away with it and the mentality: There are rules but they are there to be broken.

    I’m a Spurs supporter for 35 years and with the exception of Chelsea, Man U, Arsenal (changing now) and City the supporters of all the other clubs are being taken foor fools.

  13. PS I meant to say fixed term contracts offer more protection

  14. Sadly, Modric is being treated as bonded labour by his club.OhOh255 has it right in terms of contratcs being used as a tool to raise values and of course to avoid Bosman situations.

    Off with the shackles
    http://bit.ly/m3PNLh

  15. That’s why I don’t like the current European system, the players are being paying fatly and once hearing somewhere else offer them more money, they turn the head right then even that they just sign a a big fat contract. Sometime, I just want to ask, if they don’t want to play anymore, can the club stop paying them for the rest of the contract without getting legal sue ?

    In this case, I like the North America system better, a club practically owns a player until it trade him away. No other team can yell out loud in public that they want this guy or they want that guy from a contracted player of other club until the owner club permits it.

    I understand the human right of a player, but there are 2 things: first the club and its owner have the right to protect their investments and their business too, and second, no slave in any world including aliens world earn millions of dollars, get everything paid by the club like travel, food …., and can go anywhere on their vacation time and buying boozes for girls and whores.

    Slave is the one who has to work year round getting no vacation, no proper food, no proper clothes, can not quit the premise without the permission of the owner and sometime not getting paid at all. The players nowadays, as what I know of, does not belong to any of these categories. So they only BS with the slave term.

  16. i dont c any sense in keeping a player who is nt hapi playin 4u.afterall is’nt there a release clause in his contract.levy shud allow him go or he wud c his worst performance dis season.he shud take d 40m pounds and buy lass and other b4 d deadline.which will make his squared even much stronga.allowin modric to sign 4 cfc is wot am expectin to hear in the next 15hrs.

  17. I think that Modric should be allowed to make his Chelsea move because i don’t see him given his best to the club anymore and Levy should respect the gentleman agreement he had with the young man (if there was any)

  18. “gentlemans agreement” allegedly witnessed by who? Please don’t say Modrics agent who would hardly be impartial would he!
    Why wasn’t this alleged agreement if it actually existed written into the new contract that still has 5yrs left to run?

  19. I am a Tottenham fan for years but I am first a football fan.
    My team has lacked vision,planning and pure common sense over the past year.
    January transfer window no activity;no champions league birth
    Summer transfer window brad friedel (40+),Scott Parker(mediocre) – out Crouch,Jenas,hutton,Placious.
    We played champ. league and looked the part, I would have looked around and made sure I strengthen my team to keep up this performance.
    I really dont know what to think of Harry and chairperson Dan L. It was so obvious what needed to happen.
    Also Harry must stop expressing his fear for other team, his press conference instills doubt and surrender amongst his players and it clearly showed. He still have a quality squad but he must motivate them and demand that they perform

  20. This “his head’s not in the right place” nonsense is becoming a trifle irritating. Man up, suit up and play. This isn’t brain surgery or NASA-sized engineering, it’s a football match. Time to get back to basics and cut the Nancy excuse making out.

    tommycurran.wordpress.com