It’s late June, and football fans are starving to death.
Not literally of course, that would be weird and tragic. But the diet of football people gorge on between August and May (June and July too if there’s a major tournament) is taking its toll, as the all-you-can-eat buffet that is the domestic season is replaced by the gruel of the Confederations Cup, the European Under-21 Championships and the upcoming Under-20 World Cup.
The gruel on offer this summer though has not been as thin as was expected. England’s hopeless displays in the under-21s provided some amusement at Stuart Pearce’s expense, while the Confederations Cup has been surprisingly entertaining. Italy-Japan was a minor classic, Brazil have played some lovely football that will set the pulses racing ahead of next year’s World Cup, and Fernando Torres’s penalty miss against Tahiti with Spain already 8-0 up showed him to be a true comedy genius. Michael McIntyre may rake in the millions with his “Ooh isn’t it very funny how I’m posh and everyone else is not” schtick, but does he possess 1/100th of the comedy skill Torres displays every time he plays for Spain or Chelsea? Nope.
Aside from that, clubs have been conducting their transfer business surprisingly early. Fernandinho and Jesus Navas have joined Man City, while Edinson Cavani, Thiago Alcantara, Gonzalo Higuain and Isco all look to set to leave their current clubs for English teams shortly. Transfer deadline day may not be the amphetamine junkie’s paradise it has been in recent times, for the simple reason all the transfers people are interested in will already have taken place.
Even Tottenham have looked like signing players before the end of August, and a player signed by Spurs before the start of the season truly is a rarity. At times in recent years it’s felt like the Pope would condone abortion before Daniel Levy got his chequebook out before the last day of the transfer window.
As it is, they’ve hired ex-England assistant manager Franco Baldini as “Technical director”, a glorified job title for Harry Redknapp’s 2nd favourite creature – a wheeler dealer (A bank note is his favourite).
The Italian has been handed control of Tottenham’s transfer policy, charged with bringing in the quality players who will push Spurs up into the top four. They are currently showing interest in Brazilians with silly names, namely Paulinho, who sounds like the name given to someone called Paul who’s on a stag weekend and Bernard, one of the best young midfielders in the world and not the name of a beloved pet who lives with your nan.
Baldini, along with bringing in players to improve Spurs, will have to be ruthless in getting rid of some of the sub-standard players that are still in the squad. In terms of ruthlessness, he needs to be Tito rather than Stalin – tough, but not to extreme levels. David Bentley and William Gallas being released on free transfers is a good start.
Along with those two, it is surely time for a few others to be disposed of. Scott Parker may be experienced, good in the dressing room and popular in the press, but the basic truth is that last season he was a liability who showed himself to lack the discipline to be a defensive midfielder in Andre Villas-Boas’s system. The injury induced mid-season switch from Sandro to Parker, in terms of on pitch performance was like going from champagne and caviar one minute to turkey twizzlers the next. Factor in the high wages he is likely to be currently earning, along with the promise Tom Carroll showed in various cameo appearances last season, and he should be shown the door. Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone can’t be too far away from being sold elsewhere either.
Parker isn’t the only one. Of the two strikers Tottenham currently have in the first team, at least one of them should get the ol’ heave-ho. Jermain Defoe lacks the necessary quality to start games for Spurs – his all round game is poor and ability to bring teammates into play non-existent. As someone with pace and a solid goalscoring record, he’s a decent option as a substitute but no more than that. If the right offer were to come in, he should be allowed to leave.
If Defoe doesn’t leave, then Emmanuel Adebayor should. While he had an excellent finish to the season, playing like the top class forward he occasionally shows himself to be away at Chelsea, he is simply not trustworthy. Whether it was nagging injuries, getting sent off against Arsenal, exhibiting a general disinterest on the pitch or his hilarious (if you’re not a Spurs fan) penalty miss against Basel, he had a bad season last campaign.
While one bad season every so often is understandable, he’s shown a lot more bad than good in the last five years. With his moments of brilliance but persistent unreliability he’s a footballing Super Hans. If any club feels confident enough to get the best out of him, Spurs should let them try.
Of course, along with the first team players there is still some detritus left from mistakes made years ago. Heurelho Gomes, sadly forgotten, is still at the club, while Bongani Khumalo, so bad that when he was loaned to Reading they sent him back after only four appearances, is still lingering about the place. If these two could be sold and free up some space in the wage budget, that would be of great benefit, especially with Gareth Bale set to receive a fat new contract.
Spurs have a great chance of success next season. They are now fully accustomed with Villas-Boas, will surely add a striker who’ll be an immediate improvement on what they’ve had since Dimitar Berbatov left, could well sign at least one fine young Brazilian midfielder and look set to keep Gareth Bale for another year. The top three, all with new coaches, may struggle too.
Spurs could achieve great things next year. Getting rid of the dross in the squad this summer would be a good start.