This year, finally, Spurs have been the subject of a lot of media talk for the right reasons. Sure, we have some problems and we've had hiccups here and there, but we're not really the awful bottlers we used to be. We beat Inter Milan and got through to the UEFA Champions League knockout stages, and we're competing for fourth place once again. Last year, when we were near the top, everyone was saying "There's no way Spurs will win the title. They're Spurs." This year, I'm counting a lot more believers.
A lot of the belief has to do with the emergence of Gareth Bale, aka Welsh Jesus, and the signing of Rafael van der Vaart. To most people, the success of these two players is what has catapulted Spurs to new heights, closed the gap between them and the big boys, and helped them do away with the "typical choking Spurs" moniker. Of course, there's no playing down the importance of these players. They've been absolutely brilliant and I can't say enough good things about what they've done for the team this season.
However, there is one player who has been overlooked a bit, both at the end of last season and through the entirety of this season. People who have watched all of Spurs' games and paid very close attention to the team know who that player is, and people that haven't watched all of Spurs' games probably know at this point in this article since, and I know I'm just assuming here, they read the headline.
Luka Modric has been Spurs' unsung hero for a while now, spraying passes from deeper positions in midfield than van der Vaart and Bale while taking the "too small to play in England" cliche out behind the barn and putting it out of its misery. Harry Redknapp started playing Modric out wide because of his size and perceived lack of toughness and tackling ability, but he's killed off that nasty rumor as well. Luka Modric's abilities as a *gasp* box to box midfielder have allowed van der Vaart and Bale to shine.
In almost every game that I've looked at, and no, I'm not about to check the stats on every game this season, Modric has had a passing percentage over 80%. Based on the fact that Premier League teams are generally really good at busting up moves and the fact that Luka tries a ton of difficult killer balls, it's a pretty impressive stat. Wilson Palacios has done a pretty good job in Tom Huddlestone's absence, but it's pretty crazy how good of a passing team we are with both Modric and Big Tom in the midfield. I hate to go back to Jenas bashing, but it's incredible how much of an upgrade Modric is over Jermaine Jenas in the center of midfield. They're not even in the same universe when it comes to passing. Also an upgrade: Fans can easily explain to me what Modric does.
During the matches against Chelsea and Aston Villa, I'm pretty sure I heard a "Are you Xavi in disguise?" chant coming from my television. It was one of the coolest and funniest new football chants I'd heard in a long time. Obviously, Luka isn't Xavi. I'm one of Luka Modric's biggest fans, and I'm well aware that he is not better than the best midfielder in the world, a man who completes somewhere in the neighborhood of 94% of his passes. Luka Modric isn't an alien like Xavi, but I think he was the best that we could do if we have made a decision as a club to only sign human players.
Luka Modric doesn't score a lot of goals, nor does he power past multiple defenders on the wing on a regular basis. As a result, he's recognized a lot less than Rafael van der Vaart and Gareth Bale. Making the long pass that leads to a goal four passes later or making a tough pass in a tight space just to keep possession isn't nearly as flashy. It is, however, equally important to the success of a football team as the things that van der Vaart and Bale do. He's probably our most complete player at this point, and for that reason, he deserves as much recognition as van der Vaart and Bale.