Now that Chelsea have secured Juan Mata, attention will naturally move to the next big name on their summer shopping list: Tottenham Hotspur's ace midfielder Luka Modric. Unlike Mata, whose transfer ended up coming together amazingly fast (our first post on Mata was four days before Chelsea announced the deal, on August 17th), the Modric transfer saga has dragged on for most of the summer, but it's got to come to a close shortly, one way or the other.
One of the questions that has sprung up now that Mata is pretty much signed, sealed and delivered is what exactly this might mean for the Modric chase. Many are speculating that Chelsea's acquisition of the 23-year-old marks the end of the line for any pursuit of North London's favourite Croatian, with Harry Redknapp the most notable proponent of the 'dead in the water' line.
Chelsea have signed [Mata]? I didn’t know that. Well, I would think that’s the end of the Modric deal then, surely. I would [think the Mata deal has killed the Modric move]. I had no idea about that.
I just felt that if [Modric] didn’t want to be here that much that maybe we might have to sell him. If people don’t want to play for you, you might have to sell him and go and get three or four players in.
It's an easy conclusion to come to. Chelsea needed to get better, so they bought a player. Now they're better and have less money, and therefore aren't buying Modric. But easy isn't always right, and that paints an overly simplistic picture of the situation, one suspects. Let's try to work out how the Mata deal actually impacts Chelsea in the Grant Hunt For Luka Modric (tm).
First, let's address the money situation. With the purchases of Oriol Romeu (€5M), Romelu Lukaku (€12M), Thibaut Courtois (€9M) and now Juan Mata (€27M), Chelsea have spent an estimated 51M this summer. They've received a good amount back, too, with the sales of Gokhan Tore, Michael Mancienne and Slobodan Rajkovic bringing in around €8.5M, while Yuri Zhirkov's sale to Anzhi Makhachkala was worth about €15M. That's a net expenditure of €30M, or £26M.
That's a huge amount of money, of course, but with the Blues supposed to be willing to spend ludicrous amounts this summer to get back into tip-top shape and most of the contracts being of the immensely cheap kind, there's still lots in the war chest to play with without getting into Financial-Fair-Play-dooms-us-all territory, even if you feel like adding Andre Villas-Boas' release clause fee into the mixer. I don't think money is an issue, at this point.
Need is the next reason Chelsea might not want Modric now that Mata has joined the ranks. Much has been made of the Blues' problems with creativity from the midfield, and Mata's ability to play centrally has been touted as a potential solution to said problems. However, that's not the only place the 23-year-old could potentially be deployed. Even if Mata can be used in the hole behind the strikers, he's still probably better suited to be a creative force coming in from the wings - a little like how Messi was used during his early days at Barcelona. There's no reason to think that Mata's purchase would mean that no benefit would then come to Chelsea with a Luka Modric purchase.
In fact, there are reasons to think that it may make a deal with Tottenham more likely. Recall, if you will, the rumour regarding Yossi Benayoun being included as a makeweight in a potential Spurs deal. At the time, it didn't make much sense, because Benayoun represented basically the team's only cover at attacking midfield should Frank Lampard get hurt/need a rest. Now Mata's versatility comes into play, making Benayoun expendable in a way he wasn't before Sunday. (Also, Mata has reportedly taken the Israeli's squad number, which is neither here nor there.) Although I still don't think getting Benayoun would make much sense for Spurs, it now makes plenty for Chelsea. Progress!
Anyway, I don't think that Mata's signing kills off the Modric deal in any way, shape or form, no matter what Redknapp might think. With reports flying around of Chelsea making a new bid for the Croatian, it would seem that the Blues agree with me. No matter what, this week is going to be plenty interesting.