Luka Modric has been a magnificent performer for Real Madrid. Having joined from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2012, the Croatian international played some of his finest football at the Santiago Bernabeu and has been an unsung hero in their recent success, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale often soaking up the limelight.
Till date, Modric has amassed 333 appearances for Real Madrid, bagging 22 goals and assisting 52 more. During his time at the club, the 34-year-old has won four UEFA Champions League titles, along with a La Liga title and a Copa del Rey trophy.
The 2017/18 campaign was Modric’s best, as he won the Champions League with Real Madrid before reaching the finals of the World Cup with Croatia. The midfielder then went on to win the Ballon d’Or award.
However, since that season, Modric’s form has been on a slow decline. The numbers might say that the midfielder has made 76 appearances since 2018/19, scoring nine goals and assisting 13 more, but there is no denying that Modric has shown signs of age catching up with him.
At 34 years of age, the Croatian international is entering the twilight of his career and the time is ripe for Real Madrid to identify a successor for their midfield maestro going forward. To that end, SportsAdda takes a look at five gifted footballers who could replace the legendary Modric at the Bernabeu.
Federico Valverde (Real Madrid)
Federico Valverde joined the Real Madrid Castilla team in 2016 and broke into the first-team in 2018, after a successful loan spell at Deportivo La Coruna. While he may not be the biggest name on the list, the Uruguayan international has shown this season that he is ready to step up and take over the mantle from Luka Modric at Real Madrid.
But it’s during the 2019/20 campaign that the 21-year-old has become a regular for Zinedine Zidane’s side, even preferred over Modric on a number of occasions by the manager. He has made 32 appearances this term for the Merengues, scoring two and setting up four more.
Valverde, this season, has demonstrated great work-rate and energy, reinvigorating the Real Madrid midfield. The Uruguayan is capable of making an impact on both halves of the pitch and given his age, will only develop and get better from here on.
Christian Eriksen (Inter Milan)
A well-known Real Madrid target, Christian Eriksen ended up joining Inter Milan in the January transfer window from Tottenham. However, with things seemingly not going well in his short stint in Italy so far, Los Blancos should consider reviving their interest in the Danish international come summer.
Eriksen, during his time with Spurs, grew into one of the finest playmakers in the Premier League and Europe. The 28-year-old's vision and distribution, coupled with the ability to chip in with vital goals, made him the ideal candidate to take over from Modric at Real Madrid. What’s more, the Dane had also developed his game to play a deeper role in recent times under Mauricio Pochettino.
At 28, Eriksen is in his peak footballing years. With plenty of experience under his belt, Eriksen would be an excellent replacement for Real Madrid’s veteran midfield lieutenant. A former Tottenham man taking over from another.
Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain)
Regarded as one of the most technically-gifted midfielders in the game currently, Marco Verratti has been a key driving force behind Paris Saint-Germain's domestic domination for a number of years now but doesn’t always enjoy the spotlight.
Plucked away from Italian outfit Pescara for a modest fee of €12 million in 2012, Verratti has accumulated 310 appearances for Le Parisiens. During that time, he has bagged nine goals, set up 52 more and barring 2016/17, won the Ligue 1 title every season since joining the club. A passer extraordinaire, the Italian is also renowned for his ball-winning capabilities, making him the perfect modern-day central midfielder.
Aged 27, Verratti is entering the theoretical best phase of a footballer’s career. The Italy international has played at the highest level for a long time now, and having failed to taste continental success with PSG, he could be tempted to join forces with the record European champions.
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Arguably the best midfielder in the Premier League, Kevin De Bruyne, since joining Manchester City in 2015, has won everything on offer the domestic level, playing an integral role in each of their trophy triumphs.
However, Champions League glory continues to elude the Belgian international and with the Cityzens facing a two-year European ban for FFP violations, Real Madrid have been presented with a golden opportunity to lure him away from the Etihad.
The 28-year-old is enjoying his best-ever season this time out, having bagged nine goals and 20 assists in all competitions. De Bruyne's ability to carry the ball through the middle of the pitch, and then thread the eye of the needle to create chances for his teammates stand to make him a huge asset for Real Madrid.
Certainly, Kevin De Bruyne linking up with international teammate Eden Hazard at the Bernabeu would surely be a mouth-watering prospect for the fans.
Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Another player from Manchester but from the red side, Paul Pogba has been on top of Zidane’s transfer wishlist for quite a while now. Real Madrid tried to pry him away from Manchester United last summer, while the player and his agent Mino Raiola also tried their best to force a move but it did not materialise.
However, as another summer window nears, the speculations continue to link Pogba with a switch to Real Madrid. The Manchester United academy graduate grew into one of the best central midfielders in Europe during his time with Juventus but hasn’t been able to perform at his consistent best since returning to Old Trafford in 2016.
While Pogba has hardly taken to the field this term due to injuries, the 27-year-old enjoyed a fine season last time out, scoring 16 goals and setting up 11 more. This, in spite of all the problems between him and then-manager Jose Mourinho. One can therefore can only imagine how devastating the French World Cup winner can be playing for a manager who admires him to a great extent.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / John Thys / Franck Fife / Paul Ellis