Cristiano Ronaldo has taken the headlines for Real Madrid's recent successes, and rightly so given his scoring record, but Luka Modric's role in midfield has arguably been just as important.
Modric's performances for Croatia at the World Cup (where he won the Golden Ball in taking them to the final) have catapulted him into a new tier of superstardom. Losing Ronaldo to Juventus makes Modric so much more important now than he ever was and if Real Madrid are to improve in their new era with Julen Lopetegui, keeping the Croatian will be key.
When Inter Milan came knocking for Modric earlier this window, Florentino Perez was stern and succinct. "He's not going anywhere for a euro less than €750 million [his buyout clause]," the Real president said.
Lines had been drawn in the sand and while Modric's importance to Real Madrid was never in doubt to the fans, it had now been verbalised and Perez felt his message was strong enough to warn off anyone thinking about trying to pry the Croatian away.
These exorbitant release clauses are inserted as the sign of a player's importance, along with being a bargaining tool when a club didn't want to sell. So the €750m was seen as a conversation-ender. Instead it has only ramped up talk of a move.
Modric's future is not as straight forward as Ronaldo wanting a pay hike -- as the matter of motivation blended with money and new challenges must be considered.
Marca have referred to Friday, Aug. 10 as "Day M" -- a chat between Perez and Modric has been set and it seems as though certain negotiating rules have been drawn up.
Diario AS believe a wage increase will go a long way to convincing the midfielder to stay, but report that Inter have offered the 32-year-old €10m per year after taxes for four years and another two in the Chinese Super League at the same rate -- that would see him earning €60m over six years that should see him approaching his 40th birthday. His current deal at Real Madrid would see him earning just over half that in the same timespan.
One reason it was deemed implausible as the rumours started to swell was that Modric would have to come out and publicly ask to leave. After the faith the club showed in him following his poor start to life at Real Madrid -- a start which saw Marca's website run a poll that voted him as the summer's worst signing by a landslide -- has led to over half a decade of good vibes between player and club.
Mateo Kovacic's loan to Chelsea is another reason Modric would hardly push for a move out of the club; would he really put them in such a bind without a replacement ready to come in?
Real Madrid do have plenty going for them of course. They have the €750m clause and if they don't see a Modric move as beneficial to them they can keep him for two years and let him go for free at 34 in the hope that he is not the player he is now.
Marca report that it's not a matter of just staying at the club and finding an easy solution: Modric needs to feel valued and his new status in the dressing room needs to be understood and agreed upon with the right price attached to it. The midfielder needs to feel motivated to stay at the club where he has won everything and fulfilled his duties beyond question.
Perez will likely have to put his money where his mouth is now though. Life without Ronaldo is a reality the club have to face, but the loss of Modric as well could be a blow even Real Madrid might not overcome.