Mexico World Cup star ready to give Spurs a new spark
MISSING out on Joe Cole may be the best thing that could have happened to us, said one Spurs fan as he left White Hart Lane on Saturday. It may seem strange to celebrate Tottenham s failure to land their number one transfer target...
By Ben Pearce
'MISSING out on Joe Cole may be the best thing that could have happened to us,' said one Spurs fan as he left White Hart Lane on Saturday.
It may seem strange to celebrate Tottenham's failure to land their number one transfer target this summer, but those who witnessed the 3-2 victory over Fiorentina at the weekend will know what he means - and more than a few will agree.
There were plenty of plusses to take from Saturday's win. Spurs showed the character to come from behind in a meaningless match, Robbie Keane capped an impressive pre-season with another two well-taken goals and Younes Kaboul picked up where he left off last season - putting in a strong all-round display at right-back, and showing the powerful runs to the by-line that produced the winner when Spurs last met Manchester City, at Eastlands on May 5.
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However, there was no doubting the star of the show at the weekend - Giovani Dos Santos. It was a dazzling display from an electric ball of energy who lit up the World Cup, easily eclipsing every one of his so-called senior Spurs colleagues in South Africa. And he was the best Tottenham player at the Lane on Saturday as well.
Every touch was immaculate, every run had direction, purpose and an end product. Suddenly it was very obvious why Redknapp opted to cash in on showpony Adel Taarabt, and why at least one fan is perfectly happy to see Joe Cole at Liverpool.
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Taarabt's new boss, QPR's Neil Warnock, said last week that he could see why Redknapp had let the skilful playmaker leave, because it is hard to fit the skilful soloist into an effective system at the top level.
There were no such problems with Giovani on Saturday, as the former Barcelona wonderkid adapted seamlessly to three different positions during the 90 minutes - left side, right side, second striker. The question with Giovani is not 'where could he fit in?' but 'where would he be best?'
The 21-year-old started on the left flank in the role which Luka Modric has tended to play, drifting infield whenever Spurs were in possession and collecting the ball in the awkward area between Fiorentina's midfield and defence.
On the basis of this performance, there is little doubt that the Mexican could play that free role on a regular basis. Indeed he was so bright, incisive and influential that a thrilling new possibility arises.
Jermaine Jenas and Wilson Palacios started in the centre on Saturday but are unlikely to do so again against Man City. Tom Huddlestone and Luka Modric excelled as a midfield partnership at the end of the season, and Redknapp must be tempted to kick off the new campaign with the same pairing.
Add the raw pace of Aaron Lennon on one flank, the effervescence of an unshackled Giovani on the other, Gareth Bale and possibly Kaboul as strong-running offensive full-backs and the attacking potential is frightening.
Of course, that leaves no room for Niko Kranjcar, who has a strong claim to that creative left-side role. But, once again, these are pleasant problems for Redknapp and - at the very least - he has found a viable alternative to Kranjcar in the event of injury, or if he needs a fresh spark or injection of pace to turn a game.
It may be premature to compare Giovani with Joe Cole after one impressive performance (and an eye-catching World Cup) but the Mexican is certainly quicker, arguably more skilful and seven years younger.
All that is lacking is experience and maturity, and it is Giovani's head, not his feet, which has undermined his growth at Tottenham.
In the past Redknapp has been irritated by the Mexican's fondness for a night out, and his consequent failure to attend training sessions on the odd Monday morning, resulting in loan spells to Ipswich and Galatasaray.
However, there were certainly no signs of any attitude problems on Saturday. Giovani was as diligent with the ball as he was devastating with it, and his assist for Roman Pavlyuchenko was born out of dedicated persistence as he closed down right-back Gianluca Comotto, stole the ball and drew keeper Sebastien Frey before unselfishly squaring to give his Russian team-mate the simplest of tap-ins.
That followed another assist in Lisbon last week when he played Gareth Bale in for the winner against Benfica.
It may be too early to herald the birth of another Tottenham star, who is following the likes of Gareth Bale and Roman Pavlyuchenko in stepping out of the shadows and seizing their second chance at Tottenham.
However, Spurs fans have been waiting for two years to see the Barcelona graduate showing signs of his potential. And, having seen what they were looking for at the World Cup, they are now anxious to see the Mexican starlet prove himself in the Lilywhite shirt.
Judging by Saturday's performance they may get their wish, and sooner rather than later.