Don't sulk, Luka, just play soccer

JAMES LAWTON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:49 AM ET

LONDON - Luka Modric is a beautiful little soccer player, quick, imaginative and the creator of one of the most sublime goals ever seen at White Hart Lane, the ground of his club Tottenham Hotspur in that part of north London so recently scarred by riots, burning and looting.

This is saying a lot because the ’Spurs have long held the reputation as one of England’s most attractive teams.

Back in the 1950s they set new standards of coherent team play with a ‘push and run’ style— they pushed the ball with delicate skill and ran, generally sublimely.

In the ’60s they won the first league and Cup double of the modern era and England’s first prize in Europe — the old Cup-winners Cup.

They also had a slight Scotsman named John White, who was known as the Ghost of the Lane. He was elusive and brilliantas a maker and scorer of goals.

When Modric fashioned a goal superbly for his teammate Rafael van der Vaart in a Champions League game against the then-reigning champions Internazionale of Milan last season, there seemed reason to believe that the new ghost had arrived.

Odd, then, that when the 25-year-old Modric, whose family was severely buffeted by civil war, appeared early this morning for the first time this new season against the wealthy and hugely strengthened Manchester City, he was guaranteed more boos than cheers from the fans who recently revered him.

Modric has been in a deep sulk since Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy told him that the club would not accept a $60-million US bid from oligarch-financed Chelsea — a decision that, if maintained up to next week’s closing of the transfer window, is likely to cost the player at least $100,000 a week in salary. Reason enough, you might say, for at least a little bout of moodiness. This is certainly the fear of the club’s old pro manager Harry Redknapp, who declared this week: “What the boy has to understand, though, is that he just has to get on with his career — and of course I hope the fans are not too hard on him. They have to understand that football, like the rest of the world, has changed quite a lot in recent years.”

It probably doesn’t help Modric’s serenity that just down the road rival club Arsenal was unable to block the ambitions of superstars Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Fabregas finally succeeded in a long drawn-out campaign to rejoin his hometown Barcelona and Nasri received a huge pay hike when he signed for Man City.

There was also the case of Fernando Torres last season. When the Spanish striker valued at $100 million-plus joined Chelsea from Liverpool on the stroke of the mid-season transfer deadline he swiftly withdrew his earlier statement that he was passionately committed to the future of his old club. “In today’s game,” he said, “a player can only think of his own situation. He goes to a club, he does his best and then it is over ... Players may kiss the badges of their clubs when they score a goal but in the end you are playing for your own future. Maybe it wasn’t always like this but it is now.”

Maybe Luka Modric has a supreme duty to himself when he goes out today against some of the richest players in the history of the game.

Perhaps he just has to go out to play soccer and let the money fall where it may. One thing is certain. He is not going to sulk his way to the opulent side of the street. Luka Modric is a beautiful little soccer player, quick, imaginative and the creator of one of the most sublime goals ever seen at White Hart Lane, the ground of his club Tottenham Hotspur in that part of north London so recently scarred by riots, burning and looting.

This is saying a lot because the ’Spurs have long held the reputation as one of England’s most attractive teams.

Back in the 1950s they set new standards of coherent team play with a ‘push and run’ style— they pushed the ball with delicate skill and ran, generally sublimely.

In the ’60s they won the first league and Cup double of the modern era and England’s first prize in Europe — the old Cup-winners Cup.

They also had a slight Scotsman named John White, who was known as the Ghost of the Lane. He was elusive and brilliantas a maker and scorer of goals.

When Modric fashioned a goal superbly for his teammate Rafael van der Vaart in a Champions League game against the then-reigning champions Internazionale of Milan last season, there seemed reason to believe that the new ghost had arrived.

Odd, then, that when the 25-year-old Modric, whose family was severely buffeted by civil war, appeared early this morning for the first time this new season against the wealthy and hugely strengthened Manchester City, he was guaranteed more boos than cheers from the fans who recently revered him.

Modric has been in a deep sulk since Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy told him that the club would not accept a $60-million US bid from oligarch-financed Chelsea — a decision that, if maintained up to next week’s closing of the transfer window, is likely to cost the player at least $100,000 a week in salary. Reason enough, you might say, for at least a little bout of moodiness. This is certainly the fear of the club’s old pro manager Harry Redknapp, who declared this week: “What the boy has to understand, though, is that he just has to get on with his career — and of course I hope the fans are not too hard on him. They have to understand that football, like the rest of the world, has changed quite a lot in recent years.”

It probably doesn’t help Modric’s serenity that just down the road rival club Arsenal was unable to block the ambitions of superstars Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Fabregas finally succeeded in a long drawn-out campaign to rejoin his hometown Barcelona and Nasri received a huge pay hike when he signed for Man City.

There was also the case of Fernando Torres last season. When the Spanish striker valued at $100 million-plus joined Chelsea from Liverpool on the stroke of the mid-season transfer deadline he swiftly withdrew his earlier statement that he was passionately committed to the future of his old club. “In today’s game,” he said, “a player can only think of his own situation. He goes to a club, he does his best and then it is over ... Players may kiss the badges of their clubs when they score a goal but in the end you are playing for your own future. Maybe it wasn’t always like this but it is now.”

Maybe Luka Modric has a supreme duty to himself when he goes out today against some of the richest players in the history of the game.

Perhaps he just has to go out to play soccer and let the money fall where it may. One thing is certain. He is not going to sulk his way to the opulent side of the street.


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