Ex-Newcastle United boss Kevin Keegan has admitted that the club were on the verge of signing world-class Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric when he was in charge.
During his second stint with the Magpies in 2008, Keegan was keen on signing the attacker, but a move never materialised as his vice-president of player recruitment Tony Jimenez blocked any sort of deal being down for the Croatian.
Modric – who starred for Croatia in this summer’s World Cup, where they reached the Final – was the subject of a call between Keegan and Modric’s agent, where the possibility of him moving from Dinamo Zagreb was discussed.
“At one point I took a call from Luka Modric’s agent to ask if I would be keen on signing the player from Dinamo Zagreb,” he said in his book ‘My Life in Football’, as quoted by The Times.
“Modric had already been speaking to Spurs and his agent was honest enough to explain the move to White Hart Lane was likely to happen. Yet it was clear there might still be a chance to gazump that deal, otherwise the agent would never have bothered getting in touch.
“It was an opportunity to sign one of the outstanding young footballers in Europe and, to begin with, I was making decent inroads. Then Jimenez piped up. ‘Can I come in here?’ he said. ‘I don’t think Luka is good enough for the Premier League. He’s too lightweight. He’s decent, but he’s not good enough. My view is that he’s too lightweight for English football, he’s too small.’”
The fact that Newcastle had a great opportunity to sign Luka Modric before he became a success will undoubtedly make them kick themselves. He has gone on to become a great success, and they will be frustrated that the then vice president of player recruitment blocked any sort of move. Who knows how Modric would have got on if he made the move to Tyneside when he did – there is even the chance that he may not have made the move to Real Madrid. Newcastle would have had the privilege of seeing him progress, but it was a massive error on their part that Modric never signed for them. He is undoubtedly one of the most talented players of his generation – as demonstrated at this summer’s World Cup – and all Newcastle can do now is wonder what would have been if he was a United player rather than a player for the current Champions League winners. Keegan obviously recognised the potential that Modric had before anybody else – and it is a shame that he was not backed by his club.