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Luka Modric needs new leverage to escape Levy’s unrelenting grip

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LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 26: Mikel Arteta of Arsenal challenges Luka Modric of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium on February 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

It’s time for a Luka Modric update: Nothing new has happened. He still wants to move. Tottenham’s still waiting for somebody to hit the far right end of possible evaluations for the player. Check back at the end of the month.

ESPN’s newest acquisition, Gabriele Marcotti, has some new thoughts on the matter. Well, ‘new’ might be an exaggeration, but they’re a great synthesis of what’s happened, an evaluation fueled by former manager Harry Redknapp’s recent revelation that Modric was promised a move last year. Marcotti astutely points out that such promises mean nothing in the face of a signed contract. As new Spurs boss André Villas-Boas has noted, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is doing what’s in the club’s best interest.

Which, of course, is his job, but the promise-breaking business isn’t one you should enter into lightly. Modric’s situation is so extreme (an elite player set to make elite money after an elite transfer fee’s paid) few players, agents, or opposing teams will adjust their strategies for it, but add enough skeptical incidents together, and it becomes a small factor when you’re trying to get a player signed for a fifth year or somebody is deciding between Tottenham and Liverpool.

(MORE: Luka Modric forcing the issue at Tottenham.)

The Modric situation. The Robbie Keane situation (when he wanted to move to Liverpool). The Dimitar Berbatov situation (before his transfer to Manchester United). All clubs have their approaches to managing players, but Tottenham appears to have a healthy incredulity for how world soccer works. Player power? Why? To this point, that mindset has served the club well. For Spurs’ sake, hopefully the policies don’t become a factor in how players view the club.

Tottenham’s hypothetical reputation is not going to get Modric closer to Real Madrid. As Marcotti put it, he’s paying a high stakes game of chicken with the club, one in which he holds few cards. He wants to move? Too bad, Levy can say. We have a contract and an evaluation of your price. What do you have? Nothing? OK, this meeting’s over. Modric’s leverage is almost non-existent

source: Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA – JULY 22: Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy and Robbie Keane attends the Tottenham Hotspur and LA Galaxy reception held at the British Consul Generals residence on July 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Toby Canham/Getty Images)
But Modric’s lack of leverage (or, how it came about) is why the normally unsympathetic athlete deserves some of our consideration. When Spurs drew Modric to London from Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb, they signed him to a six-year deal – a long contract for a then-22-year-old who’d never played outside of the Prva HNL. Could Modric had signed a shorter deal, a deal acknowledging his value was likely to increase after a couple of years at Spurs? Probably not. Dinamo wanted a record fee for him, and if Spurs were going to pay it, they’d want to recoup their investment somewhere in the deal.

The value comes in those years where the player’s contributions exceed the club’s expenditure. If a player doesn’t want to give the club those value years, the club can balk and tell the player to find another buyer. Contrary to popular belief, the line of teams willing to pay record fees for relatively unproven players is rather short. If Modric had other clubs willing to pay £16.5 million for him, he’d probably have signed a four-year deal. And, he’d probably be playing for Chelsea right now.

Over the last two seasons, Modric has given Spurs their value years. He’s been the best player on a team that’s gotten Tottenham a Champions League payday. The team’s consistently in the top third of the league, playing in Europe, competing for Champions League slots. Combine that with the money they’ll get by selling him (say, £32 million if they come off their £40 million evaluation), and they’ve gotten justifable value out of him. Modric has done good by Tottenham.

And Modric has to know this. His agent’s undoubtedly told him. That, combined with Real Madrid’s interest and Levy’s 2011 promise, has to make this situation seem absurd to him. What more do I have to do to get the same options every other player has at their disposal?

But Modric shouldn’t be surprised. Nor should the next player who thinks Tottenham is the typical next step in their career. Modric saw it happen to Keane. He saw it happen to Berbatov. Levy is going to be cold hearted about any deal. He’s going to be a good chairman and use every bit of leverage he has.

If Modric really wants to leave Spurs, he has to regain leverage in this fight. That’s why he needs to leave Spurs’ camp, again. There’s little else he has at his disposal. Last year, he tried to play through his transfer saga – to be the good guy, even if it was affecting his play – and that didn’t get him to Stamford Bridge. This year, he needs to give Levy some incentive to reassess the situation.

Whether he believes it or not, he needs to make it clear that his relationship with the club is past a point of no return. Levy can try to hold on to him with the hope all will be fine when the transfer window closes, but Modric needs to put the idea in his head: Things may not be fine if a deal’s not done.

(MORE: Modric returns to Tottenham training.)

Most people will look at this tactic as despicable. Modric signed a deal, and he should stick to it. That’s the general feeling, but just as Levy will use every bit of leverage he has to do what’s best for Spurs, Modric and his agent should employ every tool at their disposal to do what’s best for them. In terms of business morality, Modric refusing to report to Spurs is no different than Levy breaking his promise. Both decisions are motivated by the same goal.

But the whole situation is absurd. If you wonder why more chairmen don’t act like Daniel Levy, it’s because of this scenario. Spurs’ chairman is pushing the situation to the point that he’s risking destroying the relationship his club has with Modric and (more important, to Levy) losing leverage, thus deflating the players’ value. If Modric refuses to play for Spurs, Real Madrid’s incentive to pay top dollar goes down. In that way, Levy is playing chicken with himself as much as he’s facing down Modric.

Modric needs to go to Levy, explain that he doesn’t intend to report to the team past a certain date, and give the club time to work out a deal. After that point, Modric should not only decline to show up for training, he should be more than willing to sit down with the BBC, Sky, ITV – even talkSport – and explain what’s happened. Maybe he can even get Harry Redknapp to sit by his side.

Regardless, Modric needs to create leverage. He doesn’t have many options.

VIDEO: ProSoccerTalk team unfiltered – Review, preview, Power Rankings and more

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ProSoccerTalk is now on video as well as in written format. Unleash the beast, as they say.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ] 

Each week ProSoccerTalk writers Joe Prince-Wright, Nick Mendola and Andy Edwards will tell us what they learned from the Premier League action, rank their top five PL players based on current form, preview the upcoming weekend and handle any other news from around the soccer world.

Expect opinions, analysis and insight, as well as plenty of friendly banter along the way and maybe a beer or two…

Basically, they have these chats on their own anyway so we thought we would record them and let them loose on the Premier League, USMNT and everything in-between. This is going to be a lot of fun and a lighthearted look at all of the action from across the soccer world each week.

With JPW is based in England and heading to Premier League games and traveling to stadiums/ training grounds, plus Andy and Nick based Stateside, we will be checking in with them regularly to get their views on just about anything when it comes to Pro Soccer. Because, well, ProSoccerTalk.

Follow the ProSoccerTalk lads on Twitter below, and click play on the video above to watch ProSocccerTalk this week in full.

Champions League qualifying: How to watch, start times, odds

UEFA Champions League qualifying
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The 12 clubs remaining in the race for the final UEFA Champions League group stage slots will be pared down to six in the next eight days.

There are American connections to two of the six ties.

Former USMNT midfielder Jesse Marsch manages Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg toward the next round, while Molde right back Henry Wingo came up with the Seattle Sounders.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Salzburg are significant favorites to advance over two legs, odds accentuated by Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s seven players absent due to positive COVID-19 tests.

Marsch had previously said he did not want to go to Israel due to COVID-19 concerns, calling it “dangerous,” but has accepted the task at hand.

From Austrian publication Kronen Zeitung:

“The moment UEFA said we were going to play in Tel Aviv, it wasn’t a problem for me. Maccabi has a great team. We are not naive. We understand that we have to fight tomorrow.”

At 3:10 in some sportsbooks, Marsch’s men are the only club favored to win the first leg away. Salzburg is led by Dominik Szoboszlai and Patson Daka, who’ve helped the team thrive despite the sales of several stars including Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino.

Molde has a much tougher test with Hungarian side Ferencvaros, who knocked off Celtic. That tie could go either way, while Slavia Prague and Olympiakos are respectively noticeable favorites to beat Midtjylland and Omonia Nicosia.

Dynamo Kiev will be expected to outlast Gent over two legs, while it would be a minor upset if PAOK takes down Krasnodar.


How to watch the UEFA Champions League qualifying playoff round

Kickoff: 3 pm ET Tuesday and Wednesday
Stream: CBS All-Access (subscription required)


UEFA Champions League playoff round matches

All 12 legs will kickoff at 3 pm ET between Tuesday and Sept. 30.

Tuesday

Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-2 Red Bull Salzburg
Slavia Prague 0-0 Midtjylland
Krasnodar 2-1 PAOK

Wednesday

Gent v Dynamo Kiev
Molde v Ferencvaros
Olympiakos v Omonia

Sept. 29

Ferencvaros v Molde
Dynamo Kiev v Gent
Omonia v Olympiakos

Sept. 30

Midtjylland v Slavia Prague
PAOK v Krasnodar
Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Tel-Aviv

League Cup: How to watch, start times, as Premier League powers enter

League Cup
Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
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Fifteen Premier League teams eye dates in the fourth round when the League Cup returns for another September midweek.

The congested nature of the season will see some PL sides play three matches in as many weeks, though the European qualifying teams are just entering the fray this week.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

That includes Europa League sides Arsenal and Leicester City, who will stage the lone all-PL scrap of the round come Wednesday at the King Power Stadium.

Tuesday was going to see Tottenham Hotspur visit a club sponsored by Spurs striker Harry Kane, but Leyton Orient is in the news after positive COVID-19 tests have threatened to forfeit Spurs into the next round.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Manchester United will hope to snap out of its season-opening funk when it begins its tourney Tuesday at Luton Town, while Chelsea hosts Barnsley on Wednesday.

Liverpool is off to Lincoln City on Thursday, kicking off its League Cup at the same time Manchester City welcomes Bournemouth.

Because of the aforementioned congested September in the tournament, the fourth round draw has already been held and those fixtures are at bottom of the page.


League Cup third round draw

All times ET

Tuesday
Leyton Orient v Tottenham Hotspur — Postponed
West Brom 2-2 Brentford – (Brentford win on penalty kicks)
Newport County 3-1 Watford 
West Ham United 5-1 Hull City
Luton Town 0-3 Manchester United 

Wednesday
Preston North End v Brighton — 2 pm
Millwall v Burnley — 2 pm
Fulham v Sheffield Wednesday — 2 pm
Stoke City v Gillingham — 2 pm
Chelsea v Barnsley — 2:45 pm
Leicester City v Arsenal — 2:45 pm
Fleetwood Town v Everton — 2:45 pm
Morecambe v Newcastle United — 2:45 pm

Thursday
Bristol City v Aston Villa — 2 pm
Lincoln City v Liverpool — 2:45 pm
Manchester City v Bournemouth — 2:45 pm


League Cup fourth round draw

Lincoln City/Liverpool v Leicester City/Arsenal
Millwall/Burnley v Manchester City/Bournemouth
West Brom/Brentford v Fulham/Sheffield Wednesday
Fleetwood Town/Everton v West Ham United/Hull City
Bristol City/Aston Villa v Stoke City/Gillingham
Leyton Orient/Tottenham v Chelsea/Barnsley
Newport County/Watford v Morecambe/Newcastle United
Preston North End/Brighton v Luton Town/Manchester United


How to watch League Cup third round streams and start time

Kickoff: Tuesday through Thursday
Online: Select games on ESPN+
Updates: Follow League Cup scores via NBCSports.com

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Premier League player Power Rankings are here!

Our second player Power Rankings of the 2020-21 season have arrived, as all 20 teams have played and we are coming off the highest scoring matchweek in Premier League history with 44 goals scored across the 10 games.

Simply put: it was incredibly tough to put 20 players in this list based on the crazy results across the Premier League.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA

Stars from Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton dominate our second player Power Rankings and there are plenty of new signings who have impressed early in the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t going to be in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
2. James Rodriguez (Everton)
3. Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
4. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
5. Heung-min Son (Tottenham)
6. Fabinho (Liverpool)
7. Tariq Lamptey (Brighton)
8. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
9. Raul Jimenez (Wolves)
10. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
11. Gabriel (Arsenal)
12. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal)
13. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
14. Vicente Guaita (Crystal Palace)
15. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton)
16. Patrick Bamford (Leeds)
17. Timothy Castagne (Leicester)
18. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
19. Andy Robertson (Liverpool)
20. Kalvin Phillips (Leeds)