Luka Modric once jetted off to meet Roman Abramovich to discuss a move to Chelsea in a sequence that can only be described as James Bond-esque.
The Real Madrid midfielder was playing for Tottenham and enjoyed a stellar campaign in the 2010/11 season that led to interest from the Blues.
The midfielder had spent three years with Spurs but after seeing them miss out on Champions League football, Chelsea came knocking.
Under manager Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea had just finished second in the Premier League and reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Recounting the situation in his book ‘Luka Modric: My Autobiography’, he told of how his talks were particularly dramatic.
He wrote: “With the 2010/11 Premier League season over, I was ready for my summer vacation. But it didn’t last long, as my agents – Vlado Lemić and Davor Ćurković – passed on Chelsea’s wish to sign me. Before transferring to Tottenham, it had seemed I would move to Stamford Bridge. This new contact only added to the impression that Chelsea thought highly of me.
“I was open to the idea of moving, but then things happened at lightning speed. First, [my wife] Vanja and I took a private jet from Zadar to Cannes, where my management team were waiting. Then, a van with tinted-glass windows took us to Nice, some 30km away. There we were picked up by Roman Abramovich’s security, who put us on a speedboat and took us to the Chelsea owner’s yacht.
“It was all very exciting. Twenty or so people, who seemed part of the security detail, met us at the boat. It was quick and well organised; just as we made ourselves comfortable on one of the luxury decks, Abramovich showed up. He was accompanied by his wife Dasha and their son. I was fascinated by the discreet disappearance of all the security people just as he arrived. It was obvious they were well trained – their timing was perfect.
“I had met Abramovich only once before. I was watching Chelsea play against Atlético Madrid at Stamford Bridge and was seated close to his box. This is where we met and exchanged a couple of words. During our meeting on the Côte d’Azur, he left an impression of a relaxed, somewhat mysterious person. He wasn’t beating around the bush and said: ‘We know you are a quality player. I’d like you to sign for Chelsea.’
“I had come to his yacht to talk, so it was evident I wished the same. I had three successful seasons at Tottenham behind me. The club was now near the top of the Premier League, I had finally felt the pleasure of playing in the Champions League, and all the analysis showed I was one of the key players in the team’s rise.
“My feeling was that it was time for a move – I wanted to fight for trophies and win titles, and I felt this wouldn’t happen if I stayed at Tottenham. I wanted to move to a more ambitious club.
“‘Do you think Tottenham will resist your transfer? Are they going to put up a fight?’ Abramovich asked. ‘I think the negotiations are going to be tough,’ I replied, because I knew the clubs were not on good terms.
“We finished our drinks and after 20 minutes or so, Abramovich and his wife discreetly retreated to their quarters. As he said goodbye, he suggested we relax and have a swim, but we thanked him and left. Within 90 minutes, we were back on the coast of Nice. We walked around the town a bit and then took a plane back to Zagreb. Both Vanja and I were impressed by the meeting, but deep inside I knew Tottenham’s chairman Daniel Levy wouldn’t want to hear about it.”
After expressing to the media that he hoped to move on, Levy released a statement to say that Modric would stay, with Tottenham then rejecting multiple offers from Chelsea.
While fans were agitated that the player wanted to leave, manager Harry Redknapp did all that he could to reintegrate him back into his plans with Modric being named captain as he ultimately decided to knuckle down after being denied a move.
However, Levy’s conduct had done little to convince Modric to stay.
Modric explained: “I had a couple of meetings with Levy during that season. In January, he even came to my home and tried to talk me into extending my contract with Tottenham. It would’ve been my second extension. Among other things, Levy then told me he’d let me leave for an offer from a big club such as Real Madrid. I told him I wouldn’t sign anything. My main focus was to play well for Tottenham and to prepare for Euro 2012.
“Despite all the turbulence, I always had a good relationship with Levy. He was the one who brought me to Tottenham – for a record fee in the club’s history. That only showed how highly he thought of me. However, I resented him because on a couple of occasions he had promised to let me move to a bigger club and then broke his promise. For me, one’s promise and one’s word are more important than anything.
“I had proven myself as a player. I didn’t know where I would go from Tottenham. I didn’t know if and when Levy would agree to sell me. But I was convinced it was time to move on, to a new and bigger challenge. After four wonderful years, during which we felt at home in England, Vanja and I knew this life had come to an end.”
In the summer of 2012, Modric joined Real Madrid player after they agreed a £30million deal with Tottenham.
Still there to this day, the midfielder has since made 491 appearances for Los Blancos, scoring 37 times and laying on 77 assists for his teammates.
While his move to Chelsea may not have come off, there’s no doubting that the 37-year-old’s career worked out alright in the end with the veteran star regarded as one of European football’s modern greats.
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