Dear Spurs Fans
I know you’re angry at Luka. He wants to leave you and it hurts. Why wouldn’t it? Nobody likes being dumped.
It’s not enough that he toyed with your emotions last season. Now he’s downing tools again. And after all you’ve done for him, too.
“What a twat,” you’re probably thinking. “What an ungrateful little wretch.”
And you would be completely wrong.
He’s trying to help you out, you ungrateful little wretches.
To explain how, we’ll have to go all the way back to the last time this happened, to 2008’s Dinamo Zagreb.
Love at first sight
Contrary to the proclamations of so many of you, Modrić was not plucked out of obscurity by your fair club. He was, in fact, the subject of a small bidding war. You certainly didn’t pay him £16 million out of the goodness of your hearts.
You were buying the second coming of Cruyff and Prosinečki (minus the chain smoking).
You were buying the wizard who pulled the strings during Paul Robinson’s personal nightmare at the Maksimir.
You were buying the general who orchestrated the slaughter of the Three Lions at Wembley; who dumped England out of Euro 2008; who silenced a nation on the brink of revelry.
Make no mistake about it: Modrić was always moving to England. You purchased him as much for his obvious talents as for the insurance that Spurs would never have to play against him.
But even so, £16 million is an outrageous sum for a diminutive midfielder from Central Europe in 2008. Sure, hindsight reveals the wager to have been a good one, but at the time the number was so far beyond the going rate that it almost seems suspicious. How many times has a transfer between two teams of such disparate means worked out in the small club’s favor? When has such a deal ever been so fair?
And here, we find, is where the history we’re repeating begins.
Leveling the field
Before his transfer to Tottenham, before the suitors began sniffing around outside Zdravko Mamić’s door, before the hype and hysteria, Modrić was approached with a contract. This is standard fare. Any club with an asset of his caliber would do the same. But his case had a strange twist.
On the last day of 2005, Modrić signed a contract that coupled an outrageous 10 year term with relatively modest wages. Sound familiar?
While it might seem as though the tiny Croatian has the world’s stupidest agent, the contract actually represented a brilliant piece of quid pro quo.
Let me explain.
Usually, in situations like these, big clubs have the luxury of patience. They can afford to underbid for players from smaller clubs with the confidence that, should the seller balk, they can always pay less next year (often for a player desperately agitating for a move to a grander stage). Without a long contract in their hands, Dinamo knew that Modrić represented more value than they could negotiate on the uneven playing field of football finance.
So Modrić gave them some leverage. In return, he received a stable platform upon which to nurture and showcase his prodigious talents. But the contract came with an unwritten understanding: Modrić was not to be held to the full terms of the contract if the right club came calling. If player and club upheld their respective sides of the agreement, they would both emerge happy. Dinamo would get a fat transfer fee and little Luka could make his big splash.
The gift that keeps on giving
That they did just that is why Dinamo fans still sing Modrić’s name. His transfer fee (as well as the similarly-structured sales of Eduardo da Silva to Arsenal and Vedran Čorluka to Man City) funded the club’s ongoing financial and sporting dominance of the Croatian top tier.
That money is what has allowed them to hold on to young talents like Mateo Kovačić and Šime Vrsaljko for so long, driving up their eventual value in the transfer market.
That money has given Dinamo Zagreb a perennial run in Europe, where they punch far, far above their weight.
That money has fueled (in large part) the development of the Croatian national team’s next generation of geniuses.
And Luka Modrić wanted to give that same gift to you Tottenham fans, who have — until now — showered him with adoration.
But your chairman was never on the same page. It’s not a point in Levy’s favor that a man like Mamić can hold to a gentlemen’s agreement better than he. Levy’s strategy — that Modrić is too professional to let his dissatisfaction spill over onto the pitch — reeks of the sort of cynicism that has driven players to become mercenaries in the first place.
And the piling on from you, the fans, only makes you look bitter. Tottenham was never the destination for Modrić, and you must know that. Demanding his loyalty is as hypocritical as it is unrealistic. Set him free, celebrate the dominance he brought your once-middling club, and relish the wealth his departure will bring you.
Let Luka help you.