REAL MADRID

Real Madrid: New opportunity opens up for Luka Modric

The Croatian, who has been used mostly as a substitute by Zidane, could regain his place in the side after Fede Valverde's injury and Casemiro testing positive for Covid-19.

When asked about his rotation policy last month, Zidane explained, "Players like Modric, Sergio (Ramos), Kroos, Marcelo… even though they're over 30, all of them could feature another six or seven times in the starting XI". One of those players, Luka Modric, is enjoying a revival. The Croatian midfielder, the Ballon d'Or winner in 2018 and now 35, has been in fine form during the opening weeks of the campaign - including a brilliant 20 minute cameo, goal included, at Camp Nou.

Modric's influence

This season, Modric has racked up some impressive numbers in LaLiga: 398 successful passes from 440 - an average of almost 45 per game. Out of those, 252 have been in the opponents' half (63.31%); 146 in Madrid's half (36.69%). He has recovered 45 balls, lost 32 and won 36 tackles in 642 minutes. He has made 11 appearances so far this season, starting seven matches - six in LaLiga and one in the Champions League but he has played just three full matches. Both of the two goals he has scored to date were wonderful finishes - he found the top corner against Shakhtar and showed skill and quick footwork before slotting home with a neat, outside-of-the-boot strike against Barcelona in the Clásico. He has made important changes to his lifestyle - changing his diet and the results are clear to see.

He has been used largely as a sub by Zidane (he's come off the bench four times), and made an impact in the Borussia Mönchengladbach game - completing 27 passes in little over 20 minutes. He had a similar influence in the meeting with Inter Milan. He was brought on for the final quarter of an hour, and allowed Madrid to regain control of the ball.

He is now in the final year of his contract although his intention is to continue "depending on what the club says". But with Fede Valverde out for a while with a fracture shin bone and Casemiro self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, Modric looks set to regain his place in midfield. Zidane could field him from the start in Madrid's next game against Villarreal. That will be consoling news for the team - and for Luka, who is poised to make a comeback which he fully deserves...