Having failed to report for training last week, Luka Modric's future at Tottenham hangs in the balance, with prospective suitors such as Real Madrid unwilling to stump up Spurs' valuation in advance of £35m for the playmaker. Either way he certainly hasn't endeared himself to new manager Andre Villas-Boas or the fans for that matter, having been at the centre of a similar saga last summer.
With that in mind, and despite signing Gylfi Sigurdsson already, most Spurs fans will want to see the Croatian replaced, so we at WhoScored have gone out of our way to make a few suggestions. Based on Modric's figures from last season, we have attempted to find players who fit a similar mould statistically, as well as using our WhoScored player characteristics.
Looking to La Liga
Undoubtedly the most interesting finding from our detailed search sees supposedly Arsenal-bound Santi Cazorla as one of the two main matches to Modric statistically. The Spaniard was mooted as a potential target for Spurs but reports today suggest their north London rivals have stolen a march in the race for the Malaga-man and if Modric does leave, Tottenham could rue missing out on his signature.
Although Cazorla is more familiar with a wide role he has excelled across the midfield this season and even started from a defensive midfield position on 7 occasions. With Modric also asked to play across the midfield last season, Cazorla could be the versatile playmaker the club may lack if the diminutive 26-year old leaves the club this summer.
The other most suited match up is also based in Spain and saw his season cut short in rather bizarre fashion last year. After an excellent start to the campaign, representing the hub of all of Valencia's play, Ever Banega ruled himself out after just 13 games by running over and breaking his own foot with his car. Although the incident may not show the Argentine in a particularly intelligent light his stats prove that he has an excellent football brain and he could be a very capable alternative.
At just 24 he has age on his side and despite playing in a deeper role than Modric in the most part, his creativity and passing statistics from last season were superb. With financial limitations forcing Valencia to sell their star assets in the past, Banega may well be available at the right price and he could have slipped under the radar of many clubs due to a lack of playing time this year.
With Modric's game revolving around an excellent distribution of the ball and range of passing, we compare the stats of the aforementioned La Liga duo. Valencia's Banega (76.2) actually averages more passes per game than Modric (70.4), with Cazorla (58.5) unsurprisingly someway back due to a tendency to play out wide. The trio also have similar accuracies with their passes, with Modric's 87.4% this time coming out on top ahead of Banega (85.3%) and Cazorla (85%).
All have a fantastic variation to their passing, with Modric averaging 7.6 accurate long balls per game, Cazorla 7.4 and Banega slightly down at 6.2. It comes as no shock that Cazorla completes the most crosses per game (1.6), though Modric's set piece duties see him average 1.3, with Banega again trailing on 0.8. The Argentine does, however, flourish in terms of through balls per game (0.8), beating Modric's 0.5 and Cazorla's 0.3. The above graph shows the percentage of each player's passes broken down by category, with Modric and Banega's proportion's startling similar.
Another key facet to Modric's game is his ability to create chances for teammates, and Cazorla and Banega again fare well. The Spurs midfielder's 2.7 key passes per game is, however, the most, while Cazorla averages 2.2 and Banega an impressive 2 per game given his deep-lying position. Interestingly, when analysing what percentage of each player's overall passes set up a teammate, Modric and Cazorla's figures are all but identical (3.8%), with Banega back at 2.6%. When looking more closely into these key passes, the similarities remain, with 28.1% of Modric's total coming from set pieces compared to Banega (26.9%) and Cazorla (22.6%).
It is not just impressive passing statistics that link the three though, with all proving their worth defensively as well as creatively last term. Modric's 1.6 tackles per game is the worst here, with Cazorla averaging an admirable 2.2 and Banega even more at 2.8. The Valencia man ranks third for interceptions per game (2.1), with Modric up at a commendable 2.3 and Cazorla again standing out with 2.6. However, as well as possessing similar strengths all three are weak at finishing according to WhoScored's characteristics. Cazorla's 9-goal haul may seem to disprove this but he scored just once from inside the box, with Modric netting a modest 4 and Banega failing to register, despite all averaging high figures for shots per game.
Having taken an in-depth look into the suitability of the previous pair, he we look at a few more obscure alternatives, starting in the Premier League. As they would need to with Cazorla, if Spurs were to make a late approach for Joe Allen they would have to act fast. Having already snatched Sigurdsson from the grasps of the Liverpool, a move for the young Welshman would not prove popular on Merseyside.
The 22-year old excelled in his first season in the Premier League, with his superb passing undoubtedly the most aligned asset to those of Modric. An incredible accuracy of 91.2% is in fact in advance of the Croat, from 60.5 passes per game, while his defensive contribution also stands out, with 3.1 tackles and 2.1 interceptions per game. Where the Team GB midfielder may fall short is his attacking stats, with averages of 1.1 for shots and 1.3 for key passes half those of Modric on both counts.
Statistically the most comparable player in the Bundesliga is perhaps Bayern's Toni Kroos, who one would suspect would be unwilling to make any such switch, with the German club just as likely to be against a move for the youngster. The 22-year old does have similar passing traits to Modric, averaging 56.8 per game with a near identical 87.6% accuracy as well as completing 6.4 long balls per match. His shooting, key passing and dribbling stats are closer to those of Modric than Allen, but still down, though defensively his figures are weaker.
In terms of players in Serie A, a more affordable option could be Catania's Francesco Lodi, though he doesn't have the ability to act as a replacement for Modric's talents. His stats do suggest he could offer similar strengths though, with set-pieces a real trademark and his creativity (2.1 key passes per game) and range of passing (7.4 long balls per game) not in question. He averaged 56.5 passes per game last season with an 84.1% accuracy and possesses similar shooting (1.8), tackling (1.5) and interception (2) averages.
The La Liga duo are unquestionably the most suited here, but the lure of Champions League football at Arsenal could prove decisive for Cazorla, so would Spurs Ever consider Banega?