Luka Modric set to be free agent this summer: Is a return to Spurs in the cards?

The Croatian maestro has spent over a decade at Real Madrid since moving from Tottenham in 2012. The Spurs faithful believe this could be an opportunity to bring the midfielder back to North London.
Real Madrid CF v Girona FC - LaLiga EA Sports
Real Madrid CF v Girona FC - LaLiga EA Sports / Diego Souto/GettyImages

Luka Modric has been one of the best and most consistent central midfielders in the world for a good part of the late 2010s and early 2020s. Despite being 38-years-old, the Croatian international still has the class to warrant a starting spot in Real Madrid's best XI. Yet, that has evaded Modric this season as Madrid's youth movement has taken full shape. No longer as young or agile as Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde, Aurelien Tchouameni, and Jude Bellingham, Modric's play time has been scarce.

It was recently revealed by Spanish outlet Relevo that Modric decided not to renew his contract and will become a free agent following the end of the season. Of course, it got the conservation started: will Spurs bring their former maestro back after 12 years away?

Modric has been a part of all five of Real Madrid's Champions League-winning teams between 2014 and 2022. He also secured three LaLiga titles in that period. His passing ability and vision have remained unmatched, even by this new generation of Madrid midfielders. During the 2021-22 UCL campaign, Modric's class was often the difference-maker in the knockout rounds. His leadership and skill have been vital as Madrid transitions between eras. The 2018 Ballon D'or winner is also often credited with turning the Croatian National Team into a legitimate European powerhouse.

Spurs could benefit from this winner's mentality and could use some depth in the leadership department. As one of the youngest outfits in the Premier League this season, senior leadership has fallen on the captains, Son Hueng-min (31), Cristian Romero (25), and James Maddison (27) (who only joined the club in August). The departures of Ivan Perisic and Eric Dier have left a hole in the dressing room. Modric could provide that bit of experience and skill that Spurs need on the training ground and in tough matches.

Signing Modric isn't without risks. Being 38 certainly comes with physical limitations. Modric cannot run as long or as hard as he used to, but he has still been able to make magic out of nothing in matches. His on-ball skill is still very much there. However, Ange Postecoglou's Tottenham plays a high-pressing style, and there is no guarantee Modric will be able to keep up with younger players. He also likely wouldn't start over Maddison, Yves Bissouma, Pape Matar Sarr, or Rodrigo Bentancur, all of whom are in their early or mid-twenties. Still, we have seen Modric hit sensational passes and score 30-yeard screamers with little effort.

Luka Modric, Carlos Clerc
Real Madrid CF v Elche CF - LaLiga Santander / Angel Martinez/GettyImages

It's also important to recognize that age is not a deterrent in the Premier League anymore. Plenty of top teams still sign players in their mid-to-late thirties if they are still skillful and intelligent like the Croatian. Thiago Silva, 39, still locks up the Chelsea defense weekly. Ivan Perisic, 34, showed signs of slowing down but managed to add some meaningful assists before he was injured in autumn. Casemiro, 32 and Modric's former teammate, is still the best defensive midfielder for Manchester United. Kevin De Bruyne, 31, looks like a man reborn after returning from injury.

Modric could potentially return to North London as another Spurs squad clearout begins. It's widely believed that Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will be moved on in the summer. Hojbjerg's on an expiring contract and interest from Spanish, Italian, and other Premier League clubs is growing. Tottenham also look poised to continue their pursuit of Conor Gallagher, even though Chelsea are unlikely to sell him.

Modric could be a cheap depth piece that could create more than Hojbjerg or Skipp could. The Croatian is unlikely to start given Maddison, Yves Bissouma, Pape Matar Sarr, Giovani Lo Celso, and Rodrigo Bentancur are all younger. However, none possess the game-changing skillset that Modric has, perhaps only with the exception of Maddison.

A Modric reunion in the new Tottenham stadium would be epic, but whether he would make the return is up to him. At 38, he could secure one final payday with an MLS or Saudi Arabian club before retiring, but a poetic return to Spurs would be incredible.