Since Tottenham crashed out of the UEFA Cup on penalties back in March, its fair to suggest that cruise control mode has set in a White Hart Lane. The north London club are guaranteed a spot in next season’s UEFA Cup following their Carling Cup victory. But with just two games of the season remaining, the height of the club’s current ambition is to leap frog West Ham into tenth position in the Premiership table.
Spurs’s league form has been consistently inconsistent throughout 2007/2008 and to emphasise the point, Juande Ramos’ team have managed just one win in their last eight games. It’s hardly the kind of form expected from a side talked about in many quarters as being top four material last summer.
Having seen their former boss Martin Jol sacked after 14 matches, captain Ledley King start just ten games and star man Dimitar Berbatov linked continuously with just about every major European club, Tottenham’s season hasn’t been without its distractions. That kind of explanation for Spurs’ mid-table mediocrity is hardly likely to wash with the club’s ambitious manager, board or fans though and a summer of major change of in N17 is inevitable. The UK football media has revelled in speculating the players likely to arrive and depart at club, with the list of individuals mentioned seemingly endless. London’s Evening Standard this evening touted a potential swap between Spurs and Barcelona involving strikers Dimitar Berbatov and Samuel Eto’o. Whether or not there is any truth in that story is yet to be established. What is already known is that Tottenham will be never far from the back pages throughout June, July and August.
Juande Ramos’ Spurs makeover has started in earnest. Back in January, the Spaniard brought Jonathan Woodgate, Gilberto and Alan Hutton to White Hart Lane in order to stabilise Tottenham’s defensive frailties. This week he also secured the services of much sought after Croatian player maker Luka Modric for a fee of £15.8m from Dinamo Zagreb. Ramos allowed Jermain Defoe to leave in the last transfer window and in a recent press conference, he went as far as suggest fellow forward Dimitar Berbatov could also depart this summer – if the price is right. Pertinent questions remain over the future of Ledley King, given the injury problems that have plagued him over the last three or four years. Retirement has been mentioned in some newspapers – Ramos denies these claims but concedes he is considering replacing King as captain next season, given the sparse amount of starts he has completed this season.
One Spurs centre-back that seems destined for the departure door is Younes Kaboul. The Frenchman was outspoken in his criticism of Juande Ramos in the press this week, claiming his boss has brought the club nothing apart from tactical changes and that the Spurs would have still won the Carling Cup with Martin Jol as manager. He added that ‘communication doesn’t exist with him (Ramos)’. Paul Stalteri and Anthony Gardner look likely to exit alongside Kaboul this summer, having been allowed to join Fulham and Everton respectively on loan this season. Lee Young Pyo is also unlikely to be in north London after August, especially with the return from injury of Welsh left back Gareth Bale. Paul Robinson, Radek Cerny, Darren Bent, Adel Taarabt and Dimitar Berbatov complete the list of players linked with a move away from White Hart Lane so far in 2008 – and the second transfer window isn’t even open yet.
On the incoming, forwards David Villa (Valencia), Iaquita (Juventus) and Bruno Fornaroli (Club Nacional de Football) have been suggested as possible replacements for Berbatov, should the Bulgarian leave Tottenham. Carlos Kameni (Espanyol), Santiago Canizares (Valencia) and Robert Green (West Ham) have been spoken about as becoming the new Spurs number one, while Diego Capel (Seville) and even Ronaldinho have been mentioned as new midfielders.
Spurs midfield has been significantly boosted by Luka Modric’s signing. The Croatian is to join the club after the Euro 2008 championships, a tournament in which he is expected to shine. Tottenham have been particularly wise in completing a deal for the 22-year-old playmaker now, aware of way his value could soar after he represents his country over the summer. They faced stiff competition for his signature with Chelsea, Newcastle, Bayern Munich and Juventus all rumoured suitors for the Dinamo Zagreb player. Juande Ramos lavished praise on Tottenham’s board for concluding the deal early claimed ‘We (Tottenham) had to speed things up because if not we could have lost him… the chairman acted very quickly’.
Similar swift movement in the summer transfer window will be a must, as the ‘Special Juan’ continues his detailed rebuilding programme at White Hart Lane.