Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
This time last year Andre Villas-Boas was unemployed, and his former employers Chelsea were on a run that took them to Champions League glory, admittedly at the expense of domestic form.
Tottenham, meanwhile, were in the midst of an alarming slump that started just about the time Harry Redknapp, with the support of the tabloid media, decided he was England manager elect – using that as a weighty bargaining chip in contract negotiations with his club, if you believe everything you read, which ED does not.
Fast forward 12 months and Tottenham – under the total control holistic managers like AVB require – have again thumped Inter Milan in Europe. Gareth Bale’s improvement since the last time he destroyed the Nerazzurri was reflected in the scoreline and, despite shortcomings in the striking department, Spurs look very much the real deal. Chelsea, meanwhile, have lost to Steaua Bucharest after their fans added cardboard boxes and terrible puns to their repertoire of A4 printouts and plastic flags.
Spurs were on a similar tangent to this a couple of seasons ago, but a failure to completely solve their striking conundrum coupled with managerial instability saw them stall and regress. Sound familiar Blues fans?
Daniel Levy and his advisers would do well to learn from past mistakes, which Roman Abramovich’s ego seems incapable of accommodating. Had the Russian not yielded to his footballer playmates and stood by AVB - who was employed with a long-term restructuring project in mind - Chelsea could well be in the midst of a title challenge now.
Levy is a different beast to Abramovich, a shrewd operator and a company man, less driven by ego and self-gratification than his Chelsea counterpart. He will see this as a great opportunity to establish Spurs in the top three while their London rivals eat their own hands. And in Manchester, City’s dressing room is not about to get any cooler while United – for all their efficiency – are beatable and catchable; Barcelona they are not.
There is no need for widespread change at White Hart Lane. An international striker is essential and a left-back would be useful, while AVB would not turn down a world-class playmaker. Apparently Luka Modric has itchy feet in Madrid.
It seems a bit too obvious to say it, but Spurs’ main priority is to keep Bale at the club. Not just because he is responsible for most of their goals – such players can, with the right funds, be replaced – but because the hype surrounding Bale makes his retention a PR goal £40 million cannot buy.
Keep Bale, the rest will follow. It shows Spurs are serious, will not be swayed by tempting offers, have a long-term project and the bucks to back it up. Bale is the ultimate professional – he won’t weep to Marca if a bid from Real Madrid is rejected. Hardball all the way, no compromise.
With Modric, Spurs’ hand was forced; the player had a shorter contract than Bale and a lighter kinship to the club and English football. Culturally, Spain and Italy are closer ‘fits’ for a Croatian than England. Welshman Bale enjoys London, is ideally suited to the Premier League, and as a youth rejected Manchester United because he felt he would get a first-team place at Spurs. His head is screwed on, and it is steered entirely by football.
And if Los Merengues offer Ronaldo-esque money for Bale, not even the most cold-hearted South American striker will see acceptance as a sign of weakness. Because the bidding war will start the moment Bale returns from holiday this summer.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"I think (the penalty) was very soft. To give a penalty in this situation, and especially when you have so many referees in their positions, it is soft. You cannot change the situation but it is very soft. If you give the penalty, why not the (red) card? Strange" - Rafael Benitez does his best to force Abramovich's hand after a defeat to Steaua Bucharest. And who wouldn't want a holiday?
ED knows full well that most of you play Football Manager, and that many will have bought temperamental Chile playmaker Jorge Valdivia in earlier editions of the computer game. Well the Palmeiras midfielder has been recalled to the Chile side after a long ban for indiscipline. His offence? Getting hammered during a training camp and turning up late and drunk for work.
It's a quiet-ish Friday by usual standards, but AC Milan's trip to Genoa will be covered in full, another opportunity for Mario Balotelli to shine. Kick off at 7.45pm.