The Dossier: Mourinho's Modric vision leaves Ozil on the periphery

By Ben Hayward & Paul Macdonald

It was all about Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese scored twice, refused to celebrate, departed with an injury and sent a message to his employers by telling the mixed zone media of his ‘sadness’ after the game. As usual, it was he who hogged the headlines.

But it should really have been about Luka Modric and Mesut Ozil. The Croat was handed his full debut by Jose Mourinho and, after much speculation over where he would play, it was in the German’s usual playmaking position that he began to seduce the Santiago Bernabeu faithful.

Modric passed, probed, flicked and feinted, dropping deep to slot in alongside Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira at times, while linking up exquisitely with attackers Ronaldo, Jose Callejon and Gonzalo Higuain. It was only 57 minutes, but the Croat’s cameo left the Bernabeu buzzing and even Mourinho, upset by his side’s disjointed display, was impressed with the 26-year-old’s initial influence.

Early indications suggest Modric needs some time to reach peak fitness, as Mourinho also mentioned in his post-match press conference, but the Croat’s first start in the white of Madrid also hinted at a fine footballer here to play a pivotal part in this Madrid side. Great news for the capital club, then. But bad news for Mesut Ozil.

Benched | Mourinho wants more from the 23-year-old playmaker

The German stared blankly into space as he replaced Modric on Sunday – and he has every right to feel despondent. The 23-year-old has 50 assists at Real Madrid since signing from Werder Bremen in the summer of 2010, but struggles to complete games, is not a great goalscorer and has endured a disappointing start to the current campaign. With Modric on board, his place is now under threat.
Ozil is acutely aware that, after subduing the influence of Kaka, he is now faced with the challenge of competing directly with the Croatian. He stated: “Every Madrid player is always under pressure and has serious competition. Real have got a minimum of 18 players, not only 11. You get used to it. But it’s not about Ozil, Kaka or Modric…it’s all about Real.”

For now, however, the former Tottenham man appears to have moved in front of the German in Mourinho’s affections. After the game against Granada, the Portuguese remarked: “His response was positive against Barca and today he did well. It was difficult for him in a game in which the team didn’t play well.”

The concern is whether Ozil can meet the demands of being an offensive creative influence in Mourinho’s set-up. In 30 league starts in 2011-12, Ozil was substituted out of the action 21 times. From 10 starts in the Champions League, he finished the match only twice. Modric, on the other hand, completed 90 minutes in 34 out of 36 Premier League matches. It could be argued that Ozil faced greater competition for his position last season in the form of Kaka, but on the occasions he was sacrificed by Mourinho, he had been ineffective, or didn’t have the physical capacity to finish the contest.

Modric offers more in terms of regaining possession, too; there is an aggression and resistance to his play – which he developed in the Premier League – that is an advancement on Ozil’s more passive approach when the opposition has the ball. In Modric, Madrid have found a player as dynamic when stalking the ball as he is when selecting a sliderule pass. Granada don’t represent the benchmark by any manner of means, but the positions taken up by the Croatian seemed natural, a logical fit. He was able to dictate and assert his character in a game when Madrid were generally underwhelming – Ozil has been accused of being on the periphery of games that aren’t going to plan.

Ozil has one assist so far this term, and it was a vital one as he crossed for Cristiano to head home the opener at Camp Nou in the first leg of the Spanish Supercopa. But even that – which saw him become the player to have provided most assists ever for the Portuguese – came from a corner. In open play, he has looked slow and sluggish in 2012-13. And Mourinho is losing patience.

Should Modric drop deeper, both he and Ozil could yet feature in the same side, but Mourinho is not keen on tinkering too much with his side’s devastating 4-2-3-1 formation and the consensus in Spain is that the Croat and the German will compete for one place in the side.

As former Real Madrid and Spain striker Alfonso told “I see Modric and Ozil alternating. I believe that’s the idea Mourinho has because that’s the way Real Madrid play and he wants to give the German some competition.”

That could be wise. Ozil’s slipshod start to the current campaign leaves him in danger of dropping to the bench on a permanent basis, although Mourinho recognises his value to the side and hopes he can recreate the form he has shown in the previous two seasons.

Mourinho also believes the German is capable of more and hopes the arrival of Modric can provide healthy competition – much like the dynamic displayed last term between Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higauin.

For now, however, the former Tottenham man appears to have moved in front of the German in Mourinho’s affections.

Madrid chased Modric for the entire summer and so far, so good. Mourinho appears content with the player’s adaptation and with his fitness improving in the next few weeks, the Croat is likely to receive more opportunities to show his worth.

Madrid fans are purring, too, and Ozil now faces a fight to win back his place in the starting XI. The German is adored by the Madrid faithful, but football is fickle and the man of the moment is Luka, not Mesut. The future formation, then, could be more like the one above. Either way, it’s a nice problem to have for Mourinho.

Follow Ben Hayward on 

Van der Wiel: PSG can become as big as Real Madrid

Gregory van der Wiel feels that Paris Saint-Germain have the potential to become one of the biggest clubs in Europe and challenge the likes of Real Madrid and other top teams.

The Netherlands international signed a four-year deal with the Ligue 1 outfit on Monday to complete his transfer from Ajax, and is full of ambition following his move to the French capital.

“Paris Saint-Germain can become as big a club as Real Madrid. They want to make it to the absolute top, win the Ligue 1 title and compete for top honours in Europe,” Van der Wiel stated to Algemeen Dagblad.

“I am very pleased to be part of this project. They are very ambitious and want to win trophies. I was looking for a new challenge and we can achieve something unique here.

“And it’s obviously fantastic to play alongside a star like Zlatan Ibrahimovic.”

Van der Wiel was also linked with a move to Newcastle United this summer, but the right back has stressed that a move to the Premier League side was never an option.

“I really wanted to play for a club in a big city. I don’t know how serious they were, but I don’t see myself living in the middle of nowhere in Newcastle.

“I am used to Amsterdam and really enjoy living in a big city. I have been in Paris for only three days or so, but I can already say that it’s quit similar to Amsterdam.”

Van der Wiel could make his official PSG debut in the home game against Toulouse on September 13.

Mourinho: Conte is the Italian special one

Jose Mourinho - Real Madrid / Shinichiro Ema

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has nothing but positive words for Juventus colleague Antonio Conte, and feels the former Italy international is quite similar to him as a trainer.

The 43-year-old, who is currently suspended for failing to report two instances of match-fixing during his time in charge of Siena, guided the Bianconeri to the Serie A title last term, and the former Inter boss is full of praise for him.

“The fans call Conte the Italian special one? I like that. I feel honoured. He is a bit like me,” Mourinho was quoted as saying by Tuttosport.

“I like Conte a lot as a coach. He knows what he wants and is a real winner. He has a lot of charisma.”

The Madrid boss then went on to discuss Juventus’ chances in the Champions League, and expects them to go far in the competition.

“Can Juventus surprise in the Champions League? Let’s not kid anyone, Juventus are a big team in Europe and it would be absolutely normal if they go far in the competition.

“Yes, it would be a surprise if they go all the way and win the Champions League after not playing in Europe last year. But it would not surprise me at all if they make it to the quarter or semi-finals.”

Juventus will have to compete with Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk and Nordsjaelland in Group E of the Champions League.

Cissokho: Valencia are as good as Barcelona & Real Madrid

Aly Cissokho believes that Valencia have what it takes to compete with Barcelona and Real Madrid for the top honours.

Los Che held Madrid to a 1-1 draw on matchday 1, while only narrowly losing 1-0 the away game versus the Catalans, and the Frenchman is confident that they can do even better once all the new players have gelled.

“Valencia are on the same level as Barcelona and Real Madrid,” the former Olympique Lyonnais defender stated at a press conference.

“We created a lot of chances in the match versus Barca, and gave a good account of ourselves. We put in a good performance, and once all the new players have settled in, we will be able of recording good results against the big teams.”

Valencia currently sit 17th in the Primera Division table with two points from three games.

Ronaldo does not want to leave Real Madrid, says Florentino Perez

Cristiano Ronaldo - Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid

Real Madrid chairman Florentino Perez has claimed that Cristiano Ronaldo does not want to leave the Spanish giants, and that he is unhappy for other reasons.

The Portuguese star refused to celebrate either of his two goals in Los Blancos‘ 3-0 victory over Granada on Sunday, saying he was “sad” with a “professional issue” at the club.

“If he wanted to leave he’d have said so when the transfer window was still open,” the 65 year-old told Marca

“There are other reasons behind it.”

Ronaldo himself took to Twitter to dispel rumours that his dismay was due to a desire for a new contract.

“That I am feeling sad and have expressed this sadness has created a huge stir,” he wrote on the social networking site.

“I am accused of wanting more money, but one day it will be shown that this is not the case,” he added.