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With the Croatian playmaker looking more and more likely to head to the Santiago Bernabeu, Goal.com examines the possible positions the 26-year-old can take up

ANALYSIS
By KS Leong

After what has been a eerily quiet summer so far by Real Madrid's shopping standards, the reigning Spanish champions could be about to seal their first signing for the 2012-13 campaign in the form of Luka Modric.

The minimal buzz linking high-profile stars to Madrid so far could suggest that, much like last summer, this will be a conservative assault on the market as coach Jose Mourinho looks to bring in just a small selection of players who will strengthen the squad without upsetting the balance - just enough to continue where they left off in La Liga last term, but also to go one step further in the Champions League.

David Silva and Modric have been the only big names linked with the Santiago Bernabeu in the early days of this transfer window, but with the former having recently snubbed a return to Spain, it appears that the latter will become Real's main priority in the coming days, with the transfer looking imminent at this stage.

With that in mind, Goal.com looks at how Modric will fit into Madrid's star-studded midfield.

ALONGSIDE ALONSO

HOW THE TEAM WOULD LOOK
(4-2-3-1)
Casillas
Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo
Alonso, MODRIC
Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo
Benzema/Higuain

Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira have formed a solid partnership in the double-pivot role over the past two seasons. Their communication and understanding have been integral to Mourinho's set-up in protecting the back four.

But Los Blancos are bound to face off against even more ultra-defensive opponents in the coming season after striking fear into their rivals by shattering, by some margin, the record for the most goals scored in a single league campaign in 2011-12.

The continued use of two strictly defensive-minded midfielders could become superfluous, and this is where the more creative and offensive Modric comes in.

Goal.com International Spain Football Editor Ben Hayward believes the Croatian can make Madrid tick in the same he has done for Spurs: "Modric has played largely alongside a more defensive-minded midfielder [Wilson Palacios, Sandro, Scott Parker] at Tottenham and, even though he doesn't score many or often provide the final pass in a goal, his vision and creativity make him the fulcrum of Spurs' attacking play. He makes Tottenham tick."

Alonso would retain his role as Madrid's fulcrum, but Modric would give the team an extra dimension in attack - something that Khedira has not been able to provide consistently enough against the big teams - while at the same time maintaining the defensive security.

Likelihood rating:

PART OF A THREE-MAN MIDFIELD

HOW THE TEAM WOULD LOOK
(4-3-3)
Casillas
Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo
Alonso, Khedira, MODRIC
Ozil, Benzema, Ronaldo

While this system also sees Modric feature alongside Xabi deep in midfield, it presents Mourinho with an opportunity to employ the 4-3-3 formation that he has often been fond of.

It is a set-up that the Portuguese could have experimented with last season with the trio of Alonso, Khedira and Nuri Sahin, but all three have similar overlapping characteristics and they would only have suffocated each other. Not to mention Sahin's lengthy injury lay-off.

But Modric offers something extra. He can be as robust and aggressive as Khedira, and he has more pace and creativity than Sahin. It is a formation that provides a good balance between defence and attack, one that can be best maximised against the big teams in Champions League competition.

"I wouldn't expect Mourinho to play with just Alonso and Modric against a team like Barcelona," says Ben Hayward, "Unless Khedira plays too in a 4-3-3. In fact, that could be just what Mourinho has in mind for Modric as we know he is a big fan of the 4-3-3 formation."

Khedira then becomes the primary ball winner, Xabi the deep-lying playmaker who dictates the rhythm of the game, and Modric the most advanced player in the triumvirate in which he can utilise his burst of speed from the back. It is the classic box-to-box midfield role that the Spurs man will excel in.

Likelihood rating:

THE PLAYMAKER-IN-CHIEF

HOW THE TEAM WOULD LOOK
(4-2-3-1)
Casillas
Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo
Alonso, Khedira
Ozil, MODRIC, Ronaldo
Benzema/Higuain

If Modric is to be deployed in an attacking midfield role, he will face extremely stiff competition for a regular place in the starting XI: Cristiano Ronaldo has rubber-stamped his ownership on the left-wing spot, while Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria have become the perfect accompaniment for the Portuguese ace in the front three behind the lone striker.

However, Di Maria was plagued by inconsistency and injuries last season and never really shone in the high-stake games: against Barcelona and the double header versus Bayern Munich in particular.

As a result, the Argentine could become the sacrificial lamb, with Ozil to be pushed out wide to the right and Modric to become the main central playmaker. If Mourinho struggles to get the best out of the German, who has been Madrid's key creative inspiration for the last two seasons, he could also opt to reinstate Mesut to the middle and move Modric to the right instead.

It is not a position the 26-year-old Croat is accustomed to but, with the guidance of Mourinho, he could stamp his mark out on the right, seeing as it is viewed as Madrid's weakest side due to Alvaro Arbeloa's lack of attacking flair from full-back.

Likelihood rating:

THE UTILITY MAN

HOW THE TEAM WOULD LOOK
(4-2-3-1)
Casillas
Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo
Alonso*, Khedira
Di Maria*, Ozil*, Ronaldo*
Benzema/Higuain
(* Modric as back-up)
Spurs are believed to be holding out for a €52 million (£40m) fee for Modric, and although that figure is likely to drop if a deal is to go through, the playmaker would still be an expensive reinforcement if he is to be brought in only as a squad player.

However, he could play just as much as the other key figures throughout the season with Real expected to aim for a treble, making the Champions League their priority. His versatility will allow him to cover for more than just one player or position. He would be an ideal back-up to Alonso, who has hardly had a rest over the last three seasons. Similarly, he can occupy Ronaldo's left-wing slot should the Portuguese be ruled out with an injury or, albeit highly unlikely, require a rest.

Modric's versatility across midfield will give him, as well as Mourinho, numerous combinations to work with in the starting XI. For a coach like Mourinho, who frequently mixes up his tactics mid-game, a player such as Modric could be crucial to his plans. Against a high-profile attacking rival, the Croatian could line up as a defensive player, but switch to a more offensive role as the match progresses if necessity dictates, or vice versa.

If Modric arrives and settles in quickly, it could spell the end of Kaka, and possibly Sahin as well, by the winter as the duo will be called upon less and less.

Likelihood rating:

HAVE YOUR SAY

Where do you think Modric will play at Madrid if he arrives? Which of the above positions and roles would suit the Croatian best? Is Modric the man who can help Real win La Decima? Let us know your views on the debate by posting a comment below or by engaging with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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