Jose Mourinho's 2011/12 Real Madrid were a brutal counter-attacking outfit whose efficiency and physicality ensured the all-time great Barcelona side were knocked off their perch at the top of La Liga.
Pep Guardiola's subsequent departure from Catalonia sparked projections of Madrid dominance under the all-time great boss and the arrival of Croatian superstar Luka Modric from Tottenham only emboldened those cries.
However, instead of building on their record 100-point campaign, Madrid instead succumbed to Mourinho's third-season syndrome with star new arrival Modric indicative of the club's woes. The midfielder was given time to settle but after a string of ineffective performances from a #10 position, Modric was infamously named by MARCA as La Liga's worst signing midway through the campaign.
Now, we all know the heights the dynamic Croat has gone on to reach in the Spanish capital, but it was initially tough to foreshadow such perpetual brilliance. Modric has been a mainstay for some all-conquering Madrid sides for over a decade, and his recent benching by Carlo Ancelotti has broken a pretty remarkable 11-year appearance record.
Luka Modric's second consecutive absence breaks 11-year appearance record
While Modric was insistent over the September international break that he was keen to remain an imperative figure at Madrid, the club's wealth of midfield options has seen the superstar's influence diminish at the start of 2023/24.
He looked off the pace in Madrid's recent defeat at Atletico and was hooked at half-time. His confused showing at the Wanda convinced Ancelotti to not only drop him for Madrid's next two encounters against Las Palmas and Girona, but render him an unused substitute.
As a result, injuries and suspensions not withstanding, this is the first time since 2012 that Modric hasn't featured in back-to-back Real Madrid games. The last man to condemn the serene maestro to unused status was the aforementioned Mourinho, who used Modric sparingly at the start of his career at the club.
On 3 October 2012, Modric failed to come on in Madrid's 4-1 win at Ajax in the Champions League group stages, then, four days later, he watched his first El Clasico from the sidelines.
Those growing pains swiftly faded once Mourinho departed, however, with Modric establishing himself as one of the club's all-time great midfielders; winning 23 major honours in the Spanish capital and claiming the esteemed Ballon d'Or in 2018.
Why isn't Luka Modric playing regularly at start of 2023/24 season?
"I didn't stay to stay, but because I want to play and enjoy football and Madrid."
Modric enjoyed a fine 2022/23 campaign as a prominent figure in Ancelotti's framework. The 37-year-old made a whopping 52 appearances last term, including 33 in La Liga and ten in the Champions League. As a result, he signed a one-year-extension in the summer and later added during the September international break that he "didn't stay to stay". He wants to play.
However, the veteran has made just three starts through nine games in 2023/24. His influence and importance have reduced drastically all of a sudden, and this could be because of Ancelotti's change to a 4-3-1-2 system which is incredibly demanding for the box-to-box shuttlers.
As a result, the Italian has favoured more youthful options like Federico Valverde with Toni Kroos also playing less.
Luka Modric's Real Madrid record