For a second season, Luka Modric is being heavily linked with a summer move away from White Hart Lane. Rational Tottenham fans have all but resigned themselves to the fact that come the end of this transfer window, it’s looking increasingly likely that the lilywhite number 14 shirt will have been left behind by quite possibly its greatest ever inhabitant – apologies to Hossam Ghaly. However, this isn’t what this piece is about. I could write at length about the merits of the transfer saga, but I don’t want to tread on already fertile ground. That pudding has been well and truly over-egged; but the fact of the matter is thus: either Daniel Levy lets him go, or he doesn’t. End of discussion. Yet, thoughts have already begun to turn to sounding out possible replacements, just in case. Forums are being littered with pipedream big name signings and suggestions for possible formation alterations, but on the whole, I’ve found myself disagreeing with them all. I don’t think we need to go out and buy this fabled ‘Modric replacement’. I believe that Tottenham already have the cultured, chance creating, playmaking, goal scoring, pace setting, set piece taking midfielder we may require should Luka leave, he’s just somehow been forgotten about.
Tom Huddlestone is one of the most technically gifted footballers I’ve ever seen in a Tottenham shirt. He’s naturally two footed with an eye for a pass, be it from 6 yards away or 60, and is one of the most accomplished strikers of the ball in the league. Sure, he’s not the same type of player Modric is, but who says we need him to be? Bigger, better players than Modric have been sold in the past, and finding a direct replacement isn’t always the answer. When Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United, he arguably left them with a bigger void to fill than if Modric was to leave Tottenham. But did Sir Alex panic buy? No, of course he didn’t. He spent £16 million of the eighty he received for Ronaldo on Antonio Valencia, hardly a like-for-like superstar replacement, but who has in time become just as important to the team, performing an entirely different role. If arguably the biggest team in the world – definitely in the country – with the greatest manager the games ever seen have realised that players come and go in modern day football, why haven’t we? Sometimes, searching for an ideal replacement and crowbarring them into a team can harm a side more than slightly adjusting their style will, look at Alberto Aquilani at Liverpool for example, billed as Xabi Alonso’s replacement, but in reality a completely different type of player made to play a role he wasn’t comfortable with, ultimately ending in failure.
Huddlestone could save the club £20 million for a midfielder that, I don’t know, could be better spent on a striker?
I think we, the fans, have become too used to seeing Modric run our midfield, and convinced ourselves we need a playmaker of his ilk in order for the team to succeed, but I’m not too sure about that anymore. Much debate has been had between Spurs fans, largely confusing themselves with whether his role in the team is overrated, or whether or not he is irreplaceable. Being the person I am, I look at the situation slightly more pragmatically. If Modric is to leave, it gives us a chance to refocus our means of play, not losing any of the attacking intent or balance in midfield, and possibly opening up the squad so reliance in chance creation isn’t focused largely on only one man. Players like Modric don’t come around all too often, and we’re lucky to call him one of our own, but we can’t be so single-sighted in thinking progression is impossible without him either. Like I said, Tom Huddlestone isn’t the same type of player as Modric is, but he has the ability to emulate the likes of Andréa Pirlo, Paul Scholes, or closer to home, Glenn Hoddle. Becoming more of a quarterback than a playmaker, a type of player like Huddlestone could be perfect for the pace in the current Tottenham team. Slightly more robust and stronger in midfield, with the ability to play passes Modric could only dream of, linking defence and attack almost instantaneously, Huddlestone could save the club £20 million for a midfielder that, I don’t know, could be better spent on a striker? We have the personnel to back up the type of role he’d be playing too; Pirlo had Gattuso at Milan, Scholes had Roy Keane, we have Scott Parker and Sandro. One midfielder with culture, the other midfielder a vulture. It’s a template that’s worked time and time again, producing results at the very highest levels.
Of course, I’m not saying Huddlestone will be ready straight away, but he’s not going to learn and improve sitting on the bench either. His injury troubles should hopefully be behind him next season, and any criticisms regarding his weight and athleticism are a thing of the past. He isn’t the quickest player in the world, and never will be, but he would be playing a role that wouldn’t require him to be. His midfield partner is the one required to chase and hustle, giving him the time on the ball needed to launch attack after attack. But, maybe Levy decides he wants Modric for another year, he’s still got four or five years to run on his six-year contract, and he’s already shown he’s not one to be pressured in to selling. Maybe this won’t be an issue for another year, but in the event that it is, I for one hope that Tom Huddlestone gets the chance I think he deserves to impress.
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