After Luka Modric spent the majority of Real Madrid’s match with Espanyol on the bench, only coming on for the final 20 minutes, Zinedine Zidane acknowledged that the Croation knows he can’t play in every game.
The reality is that Zidane knows better than anyone the need to wrap Modric in cotton wool, and give him breaks, so that when the end of the season comes, the midfielder is fit and in peak condition.
It’s important to remember that Modric turns 35 years old in September – Zidane retired at 34, and Iniesta played his last match for Barcelona at 34 too, which adds come context.
As a result, Zidane’s management of Modric is bearing dividends as the midfield maestro is showing his best form once again, and has one more goal than he managed in the entirety of last season. This comes a year after his effort at the World Cup and lack of a suitable pre-season.
In all competitions, the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner has accumulated 1,416 minutes, and in comparison, at this time last season he had already played 2,136 minutes. That’s a 720 minute difference, or eight matches.
The emergence of Fede Valverde has helped Modric and Zidane in that the Real Madrid coach can afford to leave his key man on the bench, and not feel too much effect.
And for Modric, this means less is more, to the point where the Croatian has reached February operating at his highest level, and at a key moment of the season with the Champions League back on the horizon.
In addition, each LaLiga Santander match takes more importance as the title fight continues with Barcelona, and then there are the final rounds of the Copa del Rey, a competition in which he has yet to play a minute.