Harry Kane is Spurs’ all-action heartbeat after transition from complete forward to complete footballer

When the stewing over the draw against West Ham is over, Jose Mourinho can take heart from a talisman and team that looked as in sync as they ever have done

Vithushan Ehantharajah
Sport Feature Writer, The Independant

This might seem a bit like raving about the sinks in the ensuite bathrooms on the Titanic… but did you see Harry Kane’s defensive header in the 94th minute?

With Tottenham Hotspur clinging on to a 3-2 lead, Kane rose to clear an Aaron Creswell free-kick aimed for the runs across the near post made by Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice. It wasn’t the first header of that nature for Kane. Though Spurs’ third goal came from the same forehead, you could argue that, in the moment, this was the most important header of them all.

What immediately followed was, well, unfortunate – for Kane, Spurs and this intro. A tame flick away from Harry Winks and a cultured rasp of Manuel Lanzini’s right foot consigned this bit of responsible donkey work to the stats sheet, where it’ll forever be eclipsed by the sexier 3-3 scoreline that effectively captures the absurdity of West Ham flipping a match in which they were 3-0 behind with eight minutes of normal time to go.

It was one of three clearances made by Kane, if you were wondering. Part of five interventions in the box that included throwing himself in the way of an attempt from Vladimir Coufal at the end of the first half.

That block at the time felt like a real hallmark moment in Kane’s Sunday performance. A moment to shout “Bingo” after you had already ticked off the two goals, the 60-yard raking assist and the gimme of the captain’s armband. This was all that was left on your Roy Of The Rovers card.

It ended up being all for nothing. Or rather, just a point. But it was instructive that Jose Mourinho refused to lay into his team for their late collapse. “It’s easy for me to praise them [West Ham] than to criticise us,” said Mourinho, though he did lament a mental fragility at the death. “My guys were not strong enough to cope with it psychologically and in the last few seconds we lost two points.”

By now, Kane was low down on the agenda. But when the stewing over this result has been completed, Mourinho can take heart from a talisman and team that looked as in sync as they ever have done.

That’s more to do with the rest rather than Kane. Dropping back is nothing new – though all the way into defence is a tad excessive – and the criticism of that particular move was as much down to losing a threat in an attacking position as it was about losing Kane in an attacking position.

Now he has the accomplices to cover for his sojourns into midfield. Not just Son Heung-Min, with whom he has combined with for 28 Premier League goals – the fourth-most of any duo – but whoever occupies the other wing, whether that’s Steve Bergwijn, Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela, too. On Sunday, further assistance came from full-backs Sergio Reguilon and Serge Aurier, and, for the final 18 minutes, Gareth Bale.

Even Tanguy Ndombele, the forwardmost of the three in midfield, found himself moving further on, with and without the ball. There was a point in the 19th minute when the Frenchman carried the ball forward and had four options in front of him – and none of them was his captain.

Kane still did the traditional centre-forward stuff, too. When Spurs defenders hit the ball long rather than over the top, he was the one tussling with Angelo Ogbonna in aerial duels. When transitions were not so slick, his 6ft 2in frame came in handy to shield possession. He even played off the shoulder a couple of times and ended up being the only Spurs player caught offside in part because Son could not find the speed and execution of pass to set him off.

In a literal sense, the 27-year-old was everywhere and at the heart of everything good for the hosts. But it is worth considering if that ended up being the problem.

Kane visibly tired during the second-half, walking up the field on a handful of occasions following shifts further back. It meant the ball spent more time in front of him and less at his feet – the latter a particular struggle for Moussa Sissoko and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who used that time to set themselves as the foundations on the pitch. Thus, Spurs lost their structure and West Ham were allowed to keep themselves in the game.

Of course, maybe that’s being a bit too galaxy brain about it all, and maybe why space is needed to ensure those final 12 minutes do not cloud judgement on whether the good and not so good are intrinsically bound.

Mourinho was probably right not to swallow the bait whole when asked if this was solely down to complacency. Granted, it is hard to take his words at face value, but there was a whiff of sincerity in his view that this group of players have evolved.

“Even defensively the team is much better than before. Even defensively we are much stronger but in the lat part of the game this happens and sometimes it’s difficult to explain.”

What follows is a favourable set of fixtures for Spurs, with three of the bottom six over the coming weeks and then Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool in the next four. By then we will have a better idea of how sustainable this system is, and whether Sunday’s late aberration was just football being football in 2020.

One thing we can be sure of after five goals and seven assists (and a few clearing headers) in five league matches is that Kane is, probably, the most complete forward in the game right now.

Tottenham throw away three-goal lead as Manuel Lanzini stunner rescues point for West Ham

By Jason Birt, The Telegraph

When Gareth Bale ran on to Harry Kane’s pass in injury-time, cut across Angelo Ogbonna and had only Lukasz Fabianski to beat, the goal and the headlines beckoned. The story was clear. The dream debut. Except Bale sent his shot wide and, seconds later, this incredible sport delivered another and very different ending as West Ham claimed the most unlikely point in the history of the Premier League.

Never before has a team not lost when they were three goals down in the 81st minute and, yet, 13 minutes later another substitute Manuel Lanzini struck an arresting 25-yard first-time shot that hit the angle of post and cross-bar and dropped over the line. It was the final kick of this remarkable game.

Cue the jokes. Has the curse of Bale struck again? In his first 24 league matches for Spurs, stretching over two years, he failed to be on the winning side and the manager, Harry Redknapp, was so keen to end that sequence in 2009 that he put him on with his team 4-0 up against Burnley in the 85th minute. They won.

Bale came on in the 71st minute here after his season-long loan from Real Madrid was secured in an attempt to bring some joy back into his career. Precisely 2,709 days after he last played – and scored – for Spurs in 2013 he was back and it seemed certain he would be tasting victory amid claims that once again Jose Mourinho may just be about to mount a title challenge.

How that changed and how the first 16 minutes, when Spurs were unstoppable and Harry Kane seemed determined to remind everyone who deserved top billing, seemed a distant memory as Lanzini ripped off his shirt and West Ham manager David Moyes admitted he had his own “David Pleat moment” as he danced on to the pitch in celebration.

Before kick-off all the focus was so much on Bale that perhaps even West Ham forgot about Kane. They – and everyone else – were given an emphatic reminder of the devastation he can cause as the striker scored twice and claimed a superb assist which set up Son Heung-min.

With their first passage of meaningful possession Spurs scored. Kane collected the ball and arced a wonderful long pass forward that swung into the path of Son allowing him to cut across Fabian Balbuena and curl his right-foot shot beyond Fabianski. Just 45 seconds had elapsed and it was Kane’s ninth assist of the season – six of those for Son.

The second goal came with Kane again instigating the move with another excellent pass, this time to Steven Bergwijn, and when he eventually regained possession he first nutmegged Declan Rice on the edge of the West Ham penalty area before striking a low shot through Ogbonna’s legs to beat Fabianski.

Kane’s third was more routine but was again expertly taken as West Ham allowed Sergio Reguilón the time and space to stand up a cross beyond the far post and not one of their three central defenders was close to Kane as he rose to guide a header back beyond Fabianski.

Game over, surely? West Ham came into this fixture buoyed by two wins but were being swept aside and it only appeared a matter of time before Bale would come on to complete a perfect afternoon for Spurs.

The only problem was it ignored the fact that West Ham were much better after the first-half and delivered warning after warning that something could happen. Indeed had Moyes borrowed that line from his mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson, who, according to Roy Keane, once said “lads, it’s Tottenham” by way of a team-talk? Even so when Pablo Fornals headed over the bar from just two yards out after Michail Antonio’s shot spun up what followed would have seemed inconceivable.

It was even more inconceivable when Son teed up Kane whose first-time shot from the edge of the area beat Fabianski but struck the outside of the post. A goal then and a Kane hat-trick would have ended of any lingering doubt. Kane and Son are such a potent combination that it will be interesting to see how Mourinho integrates Bale.

Suddenly it switched and it was even more impressive from West Ham given the stadium was empty and there was not the usual swirl of emotion and anxiety to play on Spurs’ nerves. Mourinho will have to dwell on that and ponder how, given the undoubted strengthening of his squad, they were unable to see this game through. This was ‘Spursy’ but it was not Mourinho-esque and he will not accept it.

Still, surely it was just a consolation when Moussa Sissoko allowed Balbuena to reach an Aaron Cresswell free-kick and head the ball past Hugo Lloris? On the touchline, though, Moyes, back after a period of self-isolation, clearly thought differently and bellowed at his players to get the ball for a quick re-start.

The haste was rewarded as ubstitute Andriy Yarmolenko slipped a pass to Vladimir Coufal who crossed only for Davinson Sánchez to intervene and inadvertently send another header past Lloris.

Incredibly there was tension in front of the vacant seats and it was palpable as panic began to spread for Spurs before Bale was given the chance to ease it. Instead he missed and lay on the turf in disappointment. Even so time was against West Ham but they earned one last free-kick which was only cleared by Harry Winks, under pressure, as far as Lanzini who instinctively let fly.  Lloris got a hand to it but it was not enough and the injury-ravaged West Ham forward scored the kind of goal that Spurs fans have seen in the past from Bale.

As High as The Dare Walk

Feeder: High

Alongside occasional mullerings of Manchester United at Old Trafford (we did beat them 1-5 up there in 1959 and 1-4 in 1972, after all), one of the many things I love about being a Spurs fan is how quickly the mojo (jomo?) can change: Following that second-half performance against Everton on the opening day of the season and much of the first half against Southampton the following weekend, who’d have thought we’d have gone into the interlull having knocked Chelsea out of the Carabo, progressed to the group stages of the Europa, and dished out United’s joint heaviest ever Premier League defeat at Old Trafford?

Continue reading “As High as The Dare Walk”

Inside Spurs with Alasdair Gold: 16th Oct

Hi everyone,

We’ve seen every kind of Jose Mourinho since he first arrived in England.

We’ve witnessed the special one, the charming one, the mischievous one, the happy one, the miserable one, the slightly unpleasant one and the humble one.

Behind the scenes at Tottenham, the club staff and players have seen many of the sides to the Portuguese in his first 11 months in charge.

On the whole it’s been positive with Mourinho understanding from the off that he was taking on a very different challenge at a club that was building towards something but without the means of his previous employers.

Those inside the club say that while the head coach still enjoys testing people, provoking a reaction and he certainly let his feelings be known inside Hotspur Way about the delays in signing a striker, Mourinho has been the content one this summer.

All of Tottenham’s transfers go through a committee, with Mourinho, chairman Daniel Levy and technical performance director Steve Hitchen – in essence the club’s director of football – among those who have to agree to a deal before it can go through.

Mourinho, who gets on well with both men, has got his way though more than once, particularly with the Carlos Vinicius signing, the 25-year-old Brazilian his top choice from the beginning of the summer.

The head coach admitted on Friday when conversation turned to the club’s transfer window: “It was fantastic, it was more than I was expecting.

“In my analysis of the team’s needs and evolution we were talking about different targets but I never thought we would go so far as we did, especially because of the moment and I can only praise what the board did for the team.”

Mourinho said he got “almost” all of his targets in the window, with Spurs missing out on Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar.

However, they made up for that later in the day somewhat, signing Swansea’s talented young centre-back Joe Rodon in the final minutes of the domestic transfer window.

Even that deal for the 22-year-old shows the backing Mourinho has got from Levy, who got Swansea down from £18million to an £11million fee with add-ons for the Wales international, using his relationship with Jonathan Barnett, the agent who represents both Gareth Bale and Rodon to help broker the deal.

Bale and Ben Davies were both pushing strongly behind the scenes for Spurs to sign their talented compatriot.

Rodon, who has signed a five-year deal with the club, will initially learn his trade in the Premier League alongside Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez, but there is real hope that he will eventually challenge to become a key man along with Japhet Tanganga, who is currently struggling with injuries.

One downside for the Welshman is that he will not be able to play in the Europa League group stage matches as he was signed after last week’s registration deadline. That would have been an ideal place to get him early game time.

If Spurs progress to the knockout stages a decision will have to be made if Rodon is to be included because, as with Davies, he does not qualify as homegrown due to Swansea’s affiliation with the Welsh FA rather than the English one.

Heading out of the club on deadline day was Cameron Carter-Vickers in a season-long loan move to Bournemouth.

Spurs took up an option to extend the USA international’s contract by a year so he’ll still have 12 months left when he returns so they won’t lose him for nothing.

In a tough year financially Mourinho was still backed with some incredibly clever deals brokered by Levy, with transfer costs spread across instalments in most cases.

The Tottenham chairman has done everything possible, within the club’s means, to ensure the Spurs boss has all the options he needs to challenge this season on all fronts.

Mourinho had a smile on his face for much of his press conference on Friday and that’s because he can feel the shift in mentality at the club that comes with seven new signings with plenty of quality.

“I can feel in the players these feelings that I love which is that they are happy but they are worried,” he said of his Spurs squad.

“They are happy that the squad is good, they are happy to see players coming in and making the squad better but at the same time they are worried about themselves. This is the kind of feeling you have in the top teams and we are having that now.”

It was pointed out to Mourinho that a body language expert had identified that his posture at Tottenham showed he was far happier than he has been in recent years.

“I’m happy. Of course I’m happy. I’m happy since I arrived. To be honest I don’t know what the experts say about my body language but I’m happy since I arrived,” he said.

“Last season, for us guys who get the job mid-season, it’s never easy and you get through problems and you have to adapt and last season was so difficult for us. 

“So of course there were moments when I was not happy. This season I’m happy. Totally happy with the squad that the club gave me.

“Very, very happy of course with my players and with my staff and the motivations that we have.”

Spirits are high at Tottenham and with Rodon’s arrival the club completed their seventh incoming deal of the two transfer windows and brought the balance to the head coach’s squad that he desired.

Now it’s down to Mourinho to do what he’s done everywhere else in his career and deliver success.

Catch you later,

Alasdair

Gareth Bale prepares for big Spurs return

Latest from Football.London

Tottenham have hinted that Gareth Bale is nearing a return to first-team action after seven years away from the club.

The Welsh winger completed an emotional return to Spurs last month after signing on a season-long loan deal from Real Madrid.

Fans have been eagerly awaiting his return to the starting line-up, but the 31-year-old has been recovering from a knee injury he suffered on international duty at the start of September.

But Bale, who blew fans away with his eye for goal during training, has recovered and is nearing his second debut for the club with West Ham the visitors to north London on Sunday.

Now Spurs have tweeted out several photos of Bale in training at Hotspur Way which shows the forward engaging in a passing drill under the watchful eye of Jose Mourinho; the sort of exercise that would test the strength of Bale’s knee, albeit outside of match conditions.

football.london understands that Tottenham players and staff have been blown away by what Bale has been doing in training over this last fortnight.

After a tough season for Real as he fell out of favour with manager Zinedine Zidane, Bale is now looking to get his sharpness back under Mourinho.

Bale, who is having roughly 40 per cent of his wages paid by Tottenham, could even be in line to play some part in this weekend’s London derby.

He hasn’t played since completing 90 minutes for Wales against Bulgaria on September 6 so a start may be a touch optimistic, especially in light of Spurs’ strong goalscoring form.

Tottenham followed up their 7-2 thrashing of Maccabi Haifa by embarrassing Manchester United 6-1 with Harry Kane and Song Heung-Min leading the line.

Although with Kane set to start for England on Wednesday night against Denmark, largely against Mourinho’s wishes due to a slight concern over his thigh, an opportunity could present itself for Bale on Sunday.


Mourinho has three big Gareth Bale decisions to make – Joe Donnohue

Gareth Bale is once again a Tottenham Hotspur player, a prospect many supporters of the club deemed an impossibility when the Welshman departed for Real Madrid back in 2013.

Fans back then would have also been somewhat surprised at the idea José Mourinho would be the manager Bale would return to work under, a little over a year after a Champions League final appearance but such is the transitory and unpredictable nature of football management and player transfers.

Mourinho is now tasked with working out how to fit Gareth Bale, Harry Kane, Lucas Moura, Son Heung-min, Erik Lamela and Steven Bergwijn into the same attack. The analogy of plate-spinning springs to mind as Spurs now have one of Europe’s best attacking rosters, with depth across the front three.

Amidst reports that Bale may be fit to return to Premier League action against West Ham United, it poses a troublesome trio of questions to the Portuguese manager. The salient question being: does he field his new addition against the same club he made his Spurs managerial bow, or hold back until a later date for the benefit of the team?

Should Mourinho start Bale, or use him as a sub?

José Mourinho is a conservative manager, a proponent of ensuring his own house is in order before deploying all hands to the attacking pump. He is a man who derives reward from careful strategic planning, not risk. Given that Bale has played 90 minutes of competitive action in a single sitting just twice this year means it is unlikely he will last the duration should he start against West Ham.

Considering that his penultimate full-ninety came on January 4th, it suggests he is even less likely to start versus David Moyes’ side. With the wealth of fit attacking options at Mourinho’s disposal, and the rampant form the team currently find themselves in, it could be a while before Bale receives his first start.

Having said that, depending on the game-state at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, Bale could be brought on to appease the expectant Spurs supporters if the team are leading and dominant in a similar fashion to their last outing at Old Trafford.

Who does he replace in the team?

Currently, Gareth Bale does not simply walk into the Spurs team and replace the likes of Son Heung-min or Harry Kane – they are two of the first names on Mourinho’s teamsheet. In danger of losing their place in the team though, are Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura who have started the season well, but not in the same vein as the two aforementioned attackers.

Bale is best as a right-sided attacker, physical enough to have an influence on proceedings in central areas, but also possessing the requisite quality to drive down the flanks and at the sides of central defenders. If Mourinho re-jigs his formation slightly, as he appears to have done in the early portion of this season, Dele Alli could be another who finds himself further squeezed out of the first-team picture.

What formation will they play as a result?

The 4-3-3 used in the 6-1 defeat of Manchester United could be an indicator towards how Mourinho intends to set his team up with Bale in it. A narrow attacking trio, supported by galloping full-backs and a box-to-box presence in Tanguy Ndombélé or Giovani Lo Celso through the middle suits Bale who tends to cut inside on his favoured left foot.

While being one of the more sentimental signings of the summer, it is one which requires the Spurs team to undergo minimal formational surgery. Bale can slot into the right-wing berth which has been adequately staffed since his 2013 exit, but a player of his powers certainly adds a certain match-winning quality to an already prolific attack.

It is far from a seamless transition – football transfers where players move from one side with a particular system to another altogether rarely are – but he is hardly being shoe-horned into an unfamiliar role. If Mourinho has been tinkering with his formation ahead of Bale’s return to fitness, in order to get the rest of the squad up to speed with a new style, it would represent smart forward-planning on the Portuguese manager’s part.


Why Bale is building excitement at Spurs – Alasdair Gold


It’s difficult to work out who is more excited about Gareth Bale’s return right now – the Welshman, the club staff and players or the Spurs fans.

The 31-year-old returned to training with the squad this week as he prepares for his second Tottenham Hotspur debut.

Any suggestions that the winger who won it all in Madrid – four Champions Leagues, two La Liga titles, three Club World Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and the Copa Del Rey – might be lacking in motivation have been swatted away.

There were some suggestions that Bale might even have been ready for a spot on the bench at Old Trafford last Sunday but Spurs wanted to make sure he was fully prepared for his Premier League return.

Bale did not become a top player by chance or purely through ability alone. Like his former Real team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane at Spurs, the Welshman trains at the very top level every day.

Add on top of that the motivation that comes with returning to a club where he is loved and wanted and the desire to prove to everyone on the outside that they are going to get an even better version of the spectacular Gareth Bale who left the Premier League in 2013 and you’ve got a potent cocktail.

That’s why staff and players have been blown away by what the winger has been showing in training so far.

There’s a large group at Hotspur Way for Jose Mourinho to work with despite it being an international break.

Son Heung-min, Dele Alli, new Brazilian striker Carlos Vinicius, Lucas Moura, Tanguy Ndombele, Erik Lamela, Moussa Sissoko, Cameron Carter-Vickers and goalkeepers Joe Hart and Paulo Gazzaniga have been training along with youngsters Jack Clarke, Harvey White and Dennis Cirkin.

On top of that Giovani Lo Celso, Steven Bergwijn and Japhet Tanganga have all withdrawn from their respective international squads with injuries.

That has meant plenty of witnesses who have seen just what Tottenham’s new number nine is capable of offering from close quarters.

He might be in his 30s now but there is a belief that Bale’s lack of game time last season has kept him on ice somewhat.

Now he is raring to go after recovering fully from his minor knee injury and some of the players have returned home from their days training at the Enfield-based complex raving about the returning Welshman.

“He loves it [at Tottenham]. The most important thing is he has got a smile back on his face and that he’s enjoying life,” Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnet told Sky Sports News.

“It had to be somewhere he wanted to go. For him, it wasn’t about money. If he was going to go somewhere it was going to be somewhere that he’d enjoy.

“He’s had offers and it wasn’t right for him. When Tottenham came knocking, it was right.

“He’s had a hard time and now he’s going to enjoy himself. He deserves to be happy. He’s been probably one of Britain’s best ambassadors.

“He wasn’t going anywhere with Real Madrid. We’d got to an impasse and some silly things were happening on both sides.”

Tottenham are flying right now under Mourinho, with a strong squad and coming off the back of that 6-1 humbling of Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are firing on all cylinders and the thought of adding Bale to the mix to form one of Europe’s most fearsome attacking tridents is mouthwatering.

Barnett explained that his client had returned to N17 because he had only one goal in mind.

“Win the Premier League, without doubt,” he said.

“Tottenham have got a good squad, a great coach and with Gareth’s help I’m sure they will get very close. You only have to see the results from last week to see that it’s open.

“It kills me to say that because I’m an Arsenal supporter, but that’s the reality.

“He has nothing to prove to anybody. He’s won more than anybody else. He was one of the best three or four players in the world and I think he still is. If he succeeds, great, If not, he’s been there and done it, but, I think he will succeed.”

When Harry Redknapp suggested on deadline day that Tottenham could be surprise contenders for the Premier League title this season he was mocked by some and his own son Jamie even tried to stop him from saying it on air, attempting to change the subject quickly, perhaps fearing that reaction.

However, there’s no mocking of Redknapp’s statement going on inside the north London club because he’s not alone in his belief.

There’s a genuine excitement behind the doors of Hotspur Way about the momentum building in the performances and the additions made during the transfer window.

Apart from the cherry on top of the cake of a new centre-back, Tottenham did everything they wanted in the window and they addressed a lot of issues.

Mourinho’s unbalanced squad has been fixed and there’s a belief inside the club that they now have arguably the best overall set of players the club has boasted in decades.

Tottenham have often had strong starting line-ups, but now there is a feeling that they have a squad teeming with talent and a head coach who has been there and done it repeatedly.

The trio of Son, Kane and Bale is enough to help any team challenge for silverware, but Mourinho also has back-ups aplenty to them, two top full-backs challenging each other on both flanks. midfield options galore including the transformed Tanguy Ndombele and finally a striker in Vinicius who can take the load off Kane.

If ever there was a season for Mourinho to profit from others’ instability it could be this one.

Spurs have adapted quickly because the bulk of their new signings have all played in the Premier League and know what it requires.

The mixed results for last season’s top four so far have shown that they are yet to find their feet and if Mourinho can rediscover the defensive strength that Spurs had on the whole after the restart, allied to their incredible attacking options, then they’re going to be a very dangerous team in the Premier League and in the cups.

Mourinho declared in his first press conference at Tottenham Hotspur back in November that he expected them to challenge for the Premier League title in his first full season and there’s a belief in the club that now they can have a real go.

Plan to mend football pyramid’s great crack should not be swept off table

By David Conn, The Guardian

There  are so many extraordinary elements in the Liverpool and Manchester United proposals to reshape English football, and so much
understandable scepticism, that the historic move at the heart of it is in danger of being missed.

So, for clarity, it really is true that the US owners of these two fabulously rich football corporations have produced an offer that has not been forthcoming and never seemed possible from any Premier League leadership figures for 28 years.

There are, undoubtedly, some self-serving elements to their prospectus but by far the most significant is the proposal that the Premier League should share a net 25% of its future TV deals with the English Football League, and provide £250m immediately to help the 72 EFL clubs through their financial crisis.

Premier League’s pay-per-view TV deal under fire from furious football fans
Read more
That is an offer, finally after a generation, to rejoin the top division with the three below and repair the vast, calamitous financial gap caused by the breakaway of the First Division from the Football League to form the Premier League in 1992.

The wholly negative reaction of the government to this plan for huge financial reparations, which also includes increased money for the FA and grassroots good causes – approximately 8.5% of annual net Premier League TV money – seems bizarre.

For months throughout this pandemic and its financial crisis for the game and its cherished pyramid, the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, has been urging the Premier League to use its financial might to help the “football family”.

The Premier League has dithered, delayed and produced nothing solid, despite being told in the spring the EFL had an immediate £250m hole and that many clubs face ruin through a Covid-19 winter of matches in empty grounds. Steve Parish, the chairman of Crystal Palace, recently argued that “Premier League clubs are being unfairly singled out” and should not have to share their money.

“No other industry is asking firms to bail out competitors,” Parish wrote in the Sunday Times before offering some comparisons. “The supermarkets aren’t instructed to help the corner shops. Deliveroo aren’t bailing out your local cafe.”

Quite apart from the assumption that Selhurst Park counts as a supermarket among corner shops, these are dreary arguments that do not merit earnest engagement. It is the kind of reasoning, for the maintenance of inequality, that also makes it more difficult for the Premier League’s middling clubs to be outraged about Liverpool, United and the rest of the big six looking to cement their own power.

With these proposals, United and Liverpool, whose majority owner, John W Henry, is said to have been contemplating the great crack in the English football pyramid for years, have thumped through the last months of stagnation and presented a coming together that has not seemed possible for 25 years.

The idea of the EFL having anything like a 25% share of Premier League TV deals last disappeared in the dust in 1995, when with Rick Parry as the chief executive, the top flight did offer 20% but the Football League board, to the fury of many clubs, rejected it.

When Parry took on the chairmanship of the EFL only one extremely long year ago, he appreciated that the root cause of the 72 clubs’ various financial agonies is the eye-watering gap with the Premier League and the parachute payments that further distort the landscape in the Championship.

When he has spoken up and made that plain, including calling parachute payments “an evil that needs to be eradicated”, he has generally been patronised. The Premier League’s administrators and smaller clubs seem to have been proceeding on the basis they would not be seriously pressured into sharing their money more equitably, as they haven’t for the past quarter-century.

To be fair, nobody except Parry seems to have been aware that Henry, across the Atlantic, was informing himself about all of this, apparently becoming more knowledgeable about the bitter 1992 breakaway than many English football people who really should know that history better. And of all people who could be expected to support the idea of putting the game back together, it turns out to be Joel Glazer, of the family whose £525m debt-loading, 2005 takeover of United has been such a burden at Old Trafford and caused so much rancour and unhappiness.

Of course it is also true this proposal does not come without some pain but that Henry and Glazer do not envisage feeling any of it themselves. There is a planned consolidation of voting power within the Premier League of the big six plus the three outside clubs that have been in the top flight longest, Everton, Southampton and West Ham, and that is simply not a good look. The 25% for the EFL is mostly to be found by reducing the Premier League to 18 clubs – the original 1990 FA proposal that was never implemented – and scrapping parachute payments, rather than ceding the money out of Old Trafford or Anfield revenues.

United and Liverpool envisage their time being freed for more Champions League matches, which will happen anyway from 2024 when Uefa’s competition is inevitably expanded, and lucrative pre-season tours. They insist their proposals are not an effort to seize more of the Premier League TV money but it is likely other Premier League clubs will get less. It will make it more difficult to break into the top six; the more even competition will be created in the relegation zone.

So, quite rightly, there should be a battle over the detail of these proposals. If the other 14 Premier League clubs want to fight for the maintenance of the one club, one vote system that is understandable; most football people would agree with it.

But the heart of the plan should not be swept off the table, which is for the Premier League to finally reconnect with the EFL, mend the gap and ease the senseless worry that loved and historic clubs will go bust in the time of football’s greatest boom.

Inside Spurs with Alasdair Gold: 9th Oct

Hi everyone,

It’s difficult to work out who is more excited about Gareth Bale’s return right now – the Welshman, the club staff and players or the Spurs fans.

The 31-year-old returned to training with the squad this week as he prepares for his second Tottenham Hotspur debut.

Any suggestions that the winger who won it all in Madrid – four Champions Leagues, two La Liga titles, three Club World Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and the Copa Del Rey – might be lacking in motivation have been blown away.

There were some suggestions that Bale might even have been ready for a spot on the bench at Old Trafford last Sunday but Spurs wanted to make sure he was fully prepared for his Premier League return.

Bale did not become a top player by chance or purely through ability alone. Like his former Real team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane at Spurs, the Welshman trains at the very top level every day. 

Add on top of that the motivation that comes with returning to a club where he is loved and wanted and the desire to prove to everyone on the outside that they are going to get an even better version of the spectacular Gareth Bale who left the Premier League in 2013 and you’ve got a potent cocktail.

That’s why staff and players have been blown away by what the winger has been showing in training so far.

There’s a large group at Hotspur Way for Jose Mourinho to work with despite it being an international break.

Son Heung-min, Dele Alli, new Brazilian striker Carlos Vinicius, Lucas Moura, Tanguy Ndombele, Erik Lamela, Moussa Sissoko, Cameron Carter-Vickers and goalkeepers Joe Hart and Paulo Gazzaniga have been training along with youngsters Jack Clarke, Harvey White and Dennis Cirkin.

On top of that Giovani Lo Celso, Steven Bergwijn and Japhet Tanganga have all withdrawn from their respective international squads with injuries.

That has meant plenty of witnesses who have seen just what Tottenham’s new number nine is capable of offering from close quarters.

He might be in his 30s now but there is a belief that Bale’s lack of game time last season has kept him on ice somewhat.

Now he is raring to go after recovering fully from his minor knee injury and some of the players have returned home from their days training at the Enfield-based complex raving about the returning Welshman.

“He loves it [at Tottenham]. The most important thing is he has got a smile back on his face and that he’s enjoying life,” Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnet told Sky Sports News.

“It had to be somewhere he wanted to go. For him, it wasn’t about money. If he was going to go somewhere it was going to be somewhere that he’d enjoy.

“He’s had offers and it wasn’t right for him. When Tottenham came knocking, it was right.

“He’s had a hard time and now he’s going to enjoy himself. He deserves to be happy. He’s been probably one of Britain’s best ambassadors.

“He wasn’t going anywhere with Real Madrid. We’d got to an impasse and some silly things were happening on both sides.”

Tottenham are flying right now under Mourinho, with a strong squad and coming off the back of that 6-1 humbling of Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are firing on all cylinders and the thought of adding Bale to the mix to form one of Europe’s most fearsome attacking tridents is mouthwatering.

Barnett explained that his client had returned to N17 because he had only one goal in mind.

“Win the Premier League, without doubt,” he said.

“Tottenham have got a good squad, a great coach and with Gareth’s help I’m sure they will get very close. You only have to see the results from last week to see that it’s open.

“It kills me to say that because I’m an Arsenal supporter, but that’s the reality.

“He has nothing to prove to anybody. He’s won more than anybody else. He was one of the best three or four players in the world and I think he still is. If he succeeds, great, If not, he’s been there and done it, but, I think he will succeed.”

When Harry Redknapp suggested on deadline day that Tottenham could be surprise contenders for the Premier League title this season he was mocked by some and his own son Jamie even tried to stop him from saying it on air, attempting to change the subject quickly, perhaps fearing that reaction.

However, there’s no mocking of Redknapp’s statement going on inside the north London club because he’s not alone.

There’s a genuine excitement behind the doors of Hotspur Way about the momentum building in the performances and the additions made during the transfer window.

Apart from the cherry on top of the cake of a new centre-back, Tottenham did everything they wanted in the window and they addressed a lot of issues.

Mourinho’s unbalanced squad has been fixed and there’s a belief inside the club that they now have arguably the best overall set of players the club has boasted in decades.

Tottenham have often had strong starting line-ups, but now there is a feeling that they have a squad teeming with talent and a head coach who has been there and done it repeatedly.

The trio of Son, Kane and Bale is enough to help any team challenge for silverware, but Mourinho also has back-ups aplenty to them, two top full-backs challenging each other on both flanks. midfield options galore including the transformed Tanguy Ndombele and finally a striker in Vinicius who can take the load off Kane.

If ever there was a season for Mourinho to profit from others’ instability it could be this one.

Spurs have adapted quickly because the bulk of their new signings have all played in the Premier League and know what it requires.

The mixed results for last season’s top four so far have shown that they are yet to find their feet and if Mourinho can rediscover the defensive strength that Spurs had on the whole after the restart, allied to their incredible attacking options, then they’re going to be a very dangerous team in the Premier League and in the cups.

Mourinho declared in his first press conference at Tottenham Hotspur back in November that he expected them to challenge for the Premier League title in his first full season and there’s a belief in the club that now they can have a real go.

Catch you later,

Alasdair

Inside Spurs with Alasdair Gold: 6th Oct

Hi everyone,

As transfer windows go, the past couple of months have been right up there for Tottenham Hotspur as they succeeded through planning, tenacity and a little bit of luck.

This window brought The Super Six, which might stir up memories of The Magnificent Seven for Spurs fans but that summer of 2013 was very different.

Back then Tottenham were desperately trying to make up for the loss of Gareth Bale by splurging the world record fee they were going to get on a septet of players with no experience of the Premier League.

In 2020, Spurs were meticulously looking to improve problem areas and there was no desire to let any key players go. If anything they truly buried the summer of 2013 by bringing Bale home.

Transfer windows are planned for long before they arrive, often with communication lines put in place with clubs, agents and intermediaries in the previous window.

Tottenham’s summer window was shaped by regular reports from Jose Mourinho during the previous season, setting out exactly what he felt his team was lacking and what positions needed more strength or upgrades in.

Those reports were used in conjunction with the work of Spurs’ technical performance director Steve Hitchen and his scouting team as they sought to bring in Mourinho players, a very different task to five-and-a-half years of looking for the type of signings that fit Mauricio Pochettino’s requirements.

On top of that, it all had to be done on a tight budget with the financial restrictions of 2020 hitting a club that operates with what it brings in.

The key criteria set out in this window for signings, other than their ability, was a strong character and leadership.

Tottenham had crumbled all too easily and frequently since the Champions League final defeat and confidence was brittle. 

Mourinho wanted winners and strong voices in the dressing room to add to those of Lloris and Kane to deliver his message on the pitch and put the club back on the front foot.

The first target was Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, the 25-year-old Southampton captain, who Tottenham knew had a strong character and a winning mentality forged at Bayern Munich.

Talks had already taken place in January over a move for him and with the Dane’s contract in its final year and the Saints’ interest in making Kyle Walker-Peters’ loan move a permanent one, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy was able to engineer a double deal that essentially saw the north London club pay just £3million in cash terms for the midfielder.

Just seven days later Spurs signed former England goalkeeper Joe Hart on a free transfer to add another player with big experience to the camp.

The 33-year-old signed a two-year deal believed to be worth much less than Michel Vorm had been on before his departure the previous month and came with a strong character, winner’s medals and experience of the biggest games.

To complete the pre-season signings, Spurs moved for a defender Mourinho was a big admirer of in Wolves’ Matt Doherty.

The Irishman had been a player who had given Mourinho problems on the pitch as an opposing manager, not least when he scored at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last season.

Mourinho and Doherty are both represented by the GestiFute agency, headed up by ‘super agent’ Jorge Mendes.

While Mourinho wooed Doherty with videos of his new changing room and photos of the shirt he would wear, Spurs were able to secure the 28-year-old – the Premier League’s second most creative full-back over the past two seasons – for a bargain fee of just £13.5million without any add-ons.

Mourinho was delighted with that capture, paying tribute to Hitchen and Levy privately and publicly for getting the three deals for established Premier League players over the line before the season began.

Then came the double deal from Madrid 20 days later.

As he had always wanted to appoint Mourinho, so Levy has always dreamed of bringing Gareth Bale back to Tottenham Hotspur

When the Welshman left in 2013, Levy inserted a clause into the deal that ensured Spurs would have first option on bringing him back.

That option expired in the summer of 2019 because simply Bale was financially out of the reach of his old club.

His wages at Madrid after his last new contract in 2016 are believed to be worth more than £600,000 a week before tax, more than three times that of Spurs’ top earner Harry Kane.

Then there was a hefty transfer fee to boot and every time Tottenham’s name was mentioned, Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett would simply laugh.

Then this summer everything changed. Bale’s relationship with Zidane had soured to such a point that he was not going to play this season and, with just two years left on his contract, Madrid were desperate to get any of his wages off the books.

Levy sensed the opportunity and negotiated a loan deal, taking on roughly 40 per cent of the 31-year-old Welshman’s wages, with the option to keep him for a second year if Spurs and Bale were happy. That would take him to the end of his Real contract.

While not a priority area for Mourinho, the signing of a world class attacking talent who had won everything in Madrid – and a player he wanted to sign for Real back in in 2012  – was not one to pass up. 

Despite his age, there was a sense inside Tottenham that Bale was something akin to a high performance sports car, kept covered up and unused in a garage for the past year. All he needed was warming up and he could help forge a mouthwatering attacking trident with Kane and Son Heung-min, potentially the Premier League’s best.

For his part, Bale was a big driver in the move, ensuring other interested parties were given a polite “no” as he looked to return home to a place where he knew he was loved.

However, it was not just Bale who Tottenham had hearts in their eyes for.

The club had been tracking Sergio Reguilon for some time and his loan spell at Sevilla, where he starred as they won the Europa League, only cemented that interest. 

Mourinho was also a big fan, keeping track on developments at his old club, and a decision was made that while Spurs were not actively looking for a left-back this summer, if Reguilon became available at a decent price then they would move.

They received word that the 23-year-old Spaniard would be available for around £28million but that low price tag came with a catch.

Real insisted that he could only leave the club with a buy-back clause which could see them bring him back in either the summer of 2021 or 2022 at a £15million profit for whoever bought him this summer.

That clause put off Manchester United but such was the admiration for Reguilon at Spurs that they felt he was such an upgrade at left-back in the short-term that they had to make the move and hope that the Spaniard fell in love with the club and decided to spurn any Madrid advances in later years.

He was third choice at the La Liga giants and there are no guarantees he will get the minutes in later years in Madrid that Spurs will give him.

Tottenham made the move and having researched the profile of the player, soon witnessed first hand the strong character and confidence they had sought in all of their signings this summer despite him being the youngest of the new bunch.

Chugging away in the background was the long-running search for a striker, a thorn in the club’s side since Fernando Llorente’s departure 14 months before.

While happy with the moves already made, Mourinho began to grow vocal behind the scenes about the failure to bring in a natural front man once the season had begun as he realised he was going to have to overplay an unfit Harry Kane, who had missed much of pre-season in self-isolation.

Tottenham’s problems in bringing someone in came either through the cost of certain strikers, their wage demands or a lack of desire from prospective signings in challenging Kane, with the knowledge that their game time would be greatly reduced.

Spurs made enquires across the board for front men. They spoke to clubs or intermediaries about Southampton’s Danny Ings, Torino’s Andrea Belotti, Metz’s Habib Diallo, Salzburg’s Patson Daka and Benfica’s Haris Seferovic.

They also considered homegrown strikers Callum Wilson and Ollie Watkins, but were put off by the fees the two players eventually went for.

In the end the club settled on two players. Mourinho wanted another Benfica player in Carlos Vinicius and the back-up option was Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik.

That was when luck – in Tottenham’s case – came into play as Benfica failed get through the Champions League qualifying rounds.

The Portuguese club suddenly needed money and Vinicius’ price tag fell from the £50million Spurs were quoted earlier in the summer.

Vinicius, another player represented by GestiFute, was snapped up on loan for £2.7million with an option to sign him permanently for £38.2million if the move worked out.

The 25-year-old Brazilian fit the Mourinho mould perfectly. At 6ft 3ins he can play the target man role, having converted from being a centre-back earlier in his career, and his ability to play out wide as well meant more tactical flexibility for Mourinho and likely more minutes for the attacker.

He was also coming off a breakthrough season in his career as joint top scorer in Liga NOS, bagging 24 goals and 13 assists in all competitions. His appearances in the Champions League helped make his work permit a formality.

Mourinho’s whole demeanour changed publicly as talks reached their conclusion for Vinicius who he felt was a key element to balancing his squad.

The window was not all about successes though.

The club had wanted one last cherry on top of the cake in a centre-back who could play on the left of the pairing.

Hitchen flew to Italy to try to negotiate a deal for Inter Milan’s Slovakian Milan Skriniar and interested was also registered in Juventus centre-back Merih Demiral.

However, Inter would not budge on a £45million price tag for Skriniar, who was keen on the move, while Tottenham would only go as far as £32million plus add-ons and that £13million difference was never bridged. 

Juventus rebuffed the interest in Demiral and a back-up option in Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger was judged to be too difficult on various levels to get off the ground.

The window closed without success in that regard, although Tottenham are considering using the extra domestic window to bring in Swansea’s Joe Rodon.

The 22-year-old Welshman would not be available for the club’s Europa League squad and is very much considered to be one for the future. 

Tottenham are yet to make an offer for Rodon but are considering a move later in the bonus window, which closes on October 16.

When it came to departures, following the exits of Jan Vertonghen, Michel Vorm and Kyle Walker-Peters, Juan Foyth and Ryan Sessegnon left on loan to Villarreal and Hoffenheim respectively.

Despite signing a new three-year contract in the process, Foyth’s loan move has an option for a £13.5m permanent move with the new contract protecting Spurs if he or the Spanish side decide against a longer stay.

Sessegnon was deliberately sent to a club that would offer him regular minutes as a left-back or wing-back and the Bundesliga outfit did so. They were chosen over various Premier League sides and others across Europe.

Spurs and Mourinho retain high hopes for the 20-year-old in the long-term to challenge Reguilon for Tottenham’s left-back spot once he has his confidence back and develops in the role.

Moves were rebuffed for Tanguy Ndombele and Dele Alli over the summer and a decision made to keep Serge Aurier to battle with Doherty and the Ivorian has responded in kind with his performances since.

There was frustration in being unable to move Danny Rose on from the club. 

The 30-year-old, who is not training with the first team, has eight months left of his contract but, despite some interest from Porto, there was no move for the left-back. 

Unless he lowers his ambitions to a Championship club or one in a country whose window has yet to close, the Netherlands for instance, then he will either have to sit on the sidelines until January or a mutual decision over his contract will have to be made.

Goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga, who has fallen to third choice stopper since Hart’s arrival, was also available for a move but one did not materialise on deadline day.

With Tottenham having two too many ‘non-locally trained’ players in their Europa League squad, the Argentine and Gedson Fernandes are likely to be the two left out by Mourinho for the group stages of the competition.

For Gedson in particular that will present a problem when it comes to game time. The 21-year-old has struggled to find a defined role under Mourinho, having been played at right-back and in various midfield positions without much success.

It was not a perfect window for Tottenham but it was an incredibly good one as they fixed problems across their squad on a tight budget.

Many other clubs spent far more than the north London outfit but Spurs were methodical and very deliberate in their moves, bringing in players with far greater values than they cost.

There is now a real buzz around the club, an excitement that they have assembled the best Tottenham squad of the modern era and a belief that Mourinho can lead them to trophies this season.

If they do then they will look back on this transfer window as the months when their best-laid plans began to take shape.

Catch you later,

Alasdair

Mourinho Rhapsody

2020: The year of nostalgia for crowds.

After the disappointment of conceding such a ridiculous penalty so late on against Newcastle, I’d resigned myself to this being yet another miserable week spent supporting Spurs – a certain cup exit at home against Chelsea ahead of a banana skin of a tie against Maccabi filling me with that age-old sense of Spursy impending doom.

So all in all, it’s got to be said, this week has been a pleasant surprise results wise.

Continue reading “Mourinho Rhapsody”

Inside Spurs with Alasdair Gold: 2nd Oct

Hello everyone,

The centre of Tottenham’s defence is the final piece to be fitted into Jose Mourinho’s “puzzle” as he calls it.

Spurs’ transfer window, all managed on a tight budget, has pleased the Portuguese with most of the six players brought in ones that he specifically requested.

The most recent, Benfica striker Carlos Vinicius, was a player Mourinho had made his top target for the role.

Tottenham initially made an approach for the Brazilian earlier in the summer but his price tag was up near the £50million mark. 

Benfica’s failure to get through the Champions League qualifiers changed all of that and Spurs were able to get Mourinho his man, with the striker’s work permit expected to be granted on Monday for his loan with an option to buy move.

The move for a new centre-back is less pressured than the one for a striker, as after 14 months of failing to replace Fernando Llorente and heaping pressure on Harry Kane to play almost every minute, Spurs needed to make that deal for a forward happen. 

Mourinho’s frustration behind the scenes was growing louder until the breakthrough was finally made for Vinicius.

It’s a different scenario when it comes to a new central defender.

The belief within Tottenham is that while they now have at least two top players in every position, the left-sided centre-back role is the one area where that’s not really the case since the departure of Jan Vertonghen.

Eric Dier can play on that side and has a big admirer in Mourinho, but his fellow senior centre-backs Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez are far less comfortable there.

The versatile Japhet Tanganga, who earned his first England U21 international call-up this week, can play there, although it’s not as natural for him as he is on the right, while left-back Ben Davies can do a job there.

Those options are why Mourinho will not be crestfallen if a new defender cannot be secured by the end of Monday as he can operate in the months ahead with those available choices.

It’s also why Tottenham will try to sign a new centre-back who can play on the left before the deadline but only if they can secure the right deal for the squad upgrade they require, rather than spending desperately.

Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar is the club’s top choice, but the problem lies in a £13million difference in valuation. 

The Serie A side want £45million for the 25-year-old Slovakian but Spurs want a deal closer to £32million with add-ons for the defender, who is very keen on the move.

There has been plenty of posturing from the Italian outfit with their sporting director and head coach Antonio Conte both saying that Skriniar is not for sale, but the latter crucially conceded that the club do need money to fund their own signings.

It’s with that in mind that Spurs are expected to return with a new approach late in the window in the hope that Inter compromise in order to push on their own transfer dealings.

If Skriniar proves to be a no-go, Tottenham also have a long-held admiration for 22-year-old Juventus defender Merih Demiral.

The Turkish centre-back can also play on the left of a defensive pairing and struggled for starts at Juve last season before suffering a cruciate ligament injury which kept him out until the restart.

Juventus are not believed to keen on letting the young defender go despite still not being a guaranteed starter, but Spurs could test their resolve should Skriniar prove not to be possible.

Another centre-back signing looked at by Tottenham is Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger, who played on the left of a back three during Conte’s era at Stamford Bridge.

The 27-year-old German would prove to be a complicated deal on various levels though.

Chelsea and Tottenham have rarely been keen on dealing with each other and Frank Lampard would not be delighted about strengthening the squad of a top four rival.

There is also Rudiger’s contract which has less than two years remaining and Chelsea want him to extend it before allowing him out on loan. 

Tottenham will of course look at other opportunities that arise in the final days of the transfer window.

In terms of outgoing central defenders, Juan Foyth is expected to leave for Villarreal on loan.

Spurs will receive a fee for the loan and the Spanish club will pay his wages for the season.

The deal will also include an option to make it a permanent move for another £13.5m should the 22-year-old centre-back decide to leave Tottenham for the La Liga outfit next summer. 

Cameron Carter-Vickers, also 22, is the subject of plenty of interest from clubs in the Championship and his move could take place in the bonus domestic window. 

Mourinho sent regular reports to chairman Daniel Levy and technical performance director Steve Hitchen last season, detailing what he wanted his Tottenham Hotspur squad to look like for his first full campaign at the helm.

That vision is now almost a reality and a new centre-back would be the cherry on top of the cake.

Catch you later,

Alasdair

Tottenham v Maccabi Haifa

Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho says “it is possible” Dele Alli will play in Thursday’s Europa League qualifying play-off against Maccabi Haifa.

Alli, 24, was left out of Spurs’ Premier League draw with Newcastle on Saturday and Tuesday’s Carabao Cup win over Chelsea.

But Mourinho says he has been impressed by Alli’s attitude in response.

“The only thing I can say is he’s being very professional. He trained very hard,” Mourinho said.

With Son Heung-min and Gareth Bale both unavailable, midfielder Alli, who has been linked with a move away from Spurs, is in line to make his third start of the season.

“It would be perfectly acceptable to have a lack of motivation, even a lack of professionalism for this training session [on Tuesday] but it was exactly the opposite,” Mourinho added.

“He has my respect and the respect of his team-mates so it is possible he plays.”

The winners of Thursday’s tie will advance to the group stage of the competition, with Mourinho eyeing a third success in the competition, after winning it once as the Europa League and once in its former guise, the Uefa Cup.

“We are going to have a good go and we are going to try and win it,” added the Portuguese manager.

“These knockout ties are very dangerous. We have to make sure tomorrow [Thursday] we win it.”

BBC sport

Tottenham v Chelsea, Carbonara Cup

Jose Mourinho says the EFL has not given Tottenham a chance of competing for the Carabao Cup as his side prepare to play Chelsea in the fourth round.

Spurs play Chelsea on Tuesday and host Maccabi Haifa in a Europa League play-off on Thursday – in-between two weekend Premier League games.

“I would like to fight for the Carabao but I don’t think I can,” he said.

“The group phase of the Europa League gives us a certain amount of money that for a club like us is very important.”

Spurs would have had the same run of games last week had Leyton Orient not forfeited their third-round tie because players tested positive for coronavirus.

They are the first English team in Europe this season because they have had to come through two rounds of qualifiers to reach the play-off, the round before the group stages.

Mourinho’s side visit Manchester United next Sunday in the league, having drawn 1-1 with Newcastle on Sunday.

“I think you can imagine that with a game on Thursday that decides a very important thing for us, I think the EFL made a decision for us,” he said.

“They didn’t even create a problem – they made a decision for us. So that’s the decision.

“Chelsea played Saturday, they have Sunday and Monday [off] then they play Tuesday and then they play again on the weekend.

“So their fantastic squad, if the manager decides not to rotate, he can perfectly play with the players that he wants.”

Spurs lost Son Heung-min to a hamstring injury at half-time against Newcastle.

“Sonny is just the first. More [injuries] will come,” said Mourinho.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, who played under Mourinho at Chelsea, said: “I know for Jose it’s a busy time with the Europa League

“When I analyse Tottenham and see the squad that didn’t play 90 minutes yesterday, I see a very strong squad.”

Chelsea – who have beaten Spurs four times in a row in all competitions – will be without wingers Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic, who are still recovering from injury.

But two summer signings, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and left-back Ben Chilwell, will be in the squad.

Lampard says the arrival of Mendy does not mean 25-year-old Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was first choice until making some errors, will be leaving.

“I certainly won’t go to the point of saying Kepa has played his last game for Chelsea,” Lampard said.

“We have to also understand Kepa is a young man. A lot of the spotlight on him has become unfair. I have to protect him because I know he’s a good lad trying to do his best.”

Inside Spurs with Alisdair Gold: 25th Sept

Hello everyone,

Could we be seeing a slightly different Jose Mourinho at Tottenham Hotspur?

The 57-year-old is not normally a man for turning, especially when it comes to players. 

Mourinho has discarded more players in his 20-year coaching career than most of us have had hot dinners.

If the Portuguese does not believe in you, cannot see how you fit into his philosophy or feels you’re not giving him everything you’ve got, then you’re out.

It doesn’t matter how talented you are. Just ask Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, Juan Mata and Arjen Robben. If Mourinho doesn’t see a place for you, you’re gone.

It doesn’t even matter if you’re the club’s biggest star. Paul Pogba found himself at loggerheads with the then Manchester United manager in their final season together.

Yet something’s happened with the current version of Jose Mourinho.

Not just one but two players have changed his mind about them at Tottenham.

Whether it’s because at Spurs he cannot simply go out and buy a top drawer replacement or whether he’s just become more accepting of others views or the ability to change, Mourinho has been won over by both Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele during his 10 months at the club.

With Lo Celso, Mourinho admits he just didn’t get him to begin with and all he saw was a signing very much made for Mauricio Pochettino who did not fit his different demands.

There was even a suggestion that Lo Celso might not make it to the end of his loan before returning to Real Betis.

However, the determined Argentine just worked and worked and made himself fit what Mourinho wanted. 

Lo Celso is a quiet one around Hotspur Way, someone who prefers to let his ability do the talking and perhaps the head coach saw that lack of words as a weakness. 

He now realises the Argentina international is something special, a playmaker with a battling nature on the pitch.

“When I arrived, he was not playing,” explained Mourinho towards the end of last season. “I didn’t believe in him or understand him immediately.

“Three or four months later, Giovani is phenomenal. I can imagine that if I came in July, I would again be in a grey area with Giovani. No. Next season I know exactly what Giovani can give.”

During one episode of Amazon’s All or Nothing series the cameras caught Mourinho talking to his coaches about Lo Celso in the canteen.

“What I said, when I arrived here, about Lo Celso – ‘I don’t believe that he can do it’,” he admitted.

“He looked like a shy kid and then little by little the guy changed my mind and I started giving him opportunities and the guy transformed himself into what he is today.”

Not only did Lo Celso see out his loan, it was made permanent within just four months after a string of impressive performances which won over Mourinho and he gave the go ahead to the permanent deal.

Then there’s Ndombele.

The Frenchman looked to be anything but a Mourinho player last season. 

The 23-year-old had issues with his fitness and motivation in his first campaign following his club record move from Lyon.

There was no doubting his quality, but he looked shattered early on in matches and that meant he was unable to show what he could do when he got the ball.

Mourinho put in the effort with him, changing his training regime to include nutrition in a “global programme” to prevent him picking up frequent, niggling injuries.

He even made that ill-advised visit during lockdown to work with Ndombele near his home.

Yet it wasn’t working. Ndombele held a meeting with chairman Daniel Levy, who had spoken to Mourinho about the player, and the midfielder admitted frustration with his lack of starts but also that he had not been fully focused.

Those around Ndombele did not help his cause, stories emerging in the French media like clockwork every single time he did not play. It frustrated Mourinho and the club every time and set back attempts at progress.

One ‘leak’ was particularly timed, coming at the final whistle of the victory against West Ham, a match in which Ndombele, among the substitutes, had not even gone out to warm up during.

The report claimed that Ndombele and Mourinho had had a massive argument the ahead of the game and that the young Frenchman had told the Spurs boss that he would never play for him again.

I asked Mourinho about it in the aftermath of that match and he said there was no problem with the player and that the match just did not require him.

Of course the relationship was not perfect and Mourinho was not impressed with the Frenchman’s attitude.

However, Tottenham made it clear that Ndombele would not be leaving the club in the summer and that he needed a second season to adapt to a very different culture and league.

They rejected enquiries from Inter Milan and eventually the stories linking him with a move away from the club faded away.

Something clicked with Ndombele, perhaps when he realised that simply moving straight on was not going to be a solution, and he returned to pre-season following a knee injury with real motivation to show what he can do at Tottenham.

Mourinho couldn’t help but notice as the player worked harder than ever to change his mind.

“Tanguy is in a process of evolution. Last season he wasn’t. Last season he stuck in a situation where I couldn’t see evolution. In this moment he’s training very, very well,” said the Spurs boss this month.

“He’s recovering from his injury, he’s recovering physically.

“In this moment, I believe in Tanguy. I never doubted his quality. Never. I doubted in some moments his motivation and commitment and professional attitude. In this moment I believe in him.”

On Thursday night Ndombele showed everything Mourinho wants. He tracked back constantly, made one crucial defensive header and in the final moments sprinted up the other end and created a chance.

Mourinho gave him the full 90 minutes as a reward for his efforts, his first of 2020.

It will have done wonders for Ndombele’s fitness, belief and confidence. The Frenchman is a wonderful talent but it’s always been about his work off the ball. 

There’s still some way to go but the midfielder looks leaner and more motivated than ever.

“He played very well,” said Mourinho on Thursday night. “Of course in a game where I can imagine our percentage of ball possession was very, very high and our percentage is high he feels obviously much more comfortable.

“However, even without the ball he had recovery, he had duels, he had defensive transition. It was a really positive game from Tanguy, I’m really happy.”

The key for both Lo Celso and Ndombele has been showing Mourinho that they are not just luxury players.

The Portuguese demands that every player gives their all for him and the team. You can produce magic but you have to do it within his structure.

Mourinho will prod, poke and test players, inciting them to see what reaction he gets and how they respond will define their relationship with him.

That Lo Celso and Ndombele have changed their relationship with him, after both looked to be heading towards the Mourinho scrapheap is a big sea change. 

It’s credit to their efforts but also to the Spurs boss who has had to adapt at Tottenham to many differences to his former clubs.

It’s still early days with the head coach and the duo, but those two relationships show that Mourinho might just be mellowing. We’ll see.

Catch you next week,

Alasdair

Shkendija v Tottenham

Tottenham Hotspur are taking a full-strength squad to North Macedonia for Thursday’s Europa League third qualifying round tie with Shkendija.

The winners of that game host Rostov or Maccabi Haifa next week for a place in the group stages.

Spurs’ EFL Cup game on Tuesday was called off as Leyton Orient players tested positive for coronavirus.

“The team that was supposed to play last night is different to the team tomorrow,” boss Jose Mourinho said.

“The main reason is that we played last Sunday at Southampton and one thing is Sunday, Tuesday and another is Sunday, Thursday.

“So this is a normal situation for a football player of this level to have three days rest and to play again on Thursday.”

Sergio Reguilon and Gareth Bale are not ready to play yet following their moves from Real Madrid.

It is over a decade since Spurs – who came from behind to beat Lokomotiv Plovdiv 2-1 last week – failed to qualify for the group stages of European competition.

“We took it very seriously in Bulgaria, but even so, we weren’t very far away from an unhappy night,” Mourinho said.

“For the game tomorrow, we didn’t need that experience, but maybe it helps, because we know how tricky this can be.

“Is the Europa League a competition that we want very much to get to the group stage? Yes it is.”

The game will be held at the Tose Proeski Arena, the national stadium, in Skopje because Shkendija’s stadium does not meet Uefa’s requirements.

This is their seventh consecutive season in Europa League qualifying but they have never reached the group stages. They finished third in last season’s shortened Macedonian league.

Kick off 7pm

BBC Sport

Harry Kane tees up Son’s four-goal show as Spurs hammer Southampton

By Ben Fisher, The Guardian

After a topsy-turvy opening, this game soon developed a familiar theme, with Harry Kane supplying a supercharged Son Heung-min to score on four occasions and earn Tottenham a resounding victory. It is the first time one player has assisted another four times in a Premier League match but Kane eventually got in on the act to score Spurs’ fifth after preying on a rebound.

When Spurs seamlessly click in the final third as they did here, the thought of adding the returning Gareth Bale into the attacking cocktail is a mouth-watering proposition.

It is unlikely to be a thought opposition defences will want to stew on given how Tottenham feasted on Southampton’s soft centre time and again as Son, who displayed an apparently telepathic understanding with Kane, laid on an exhibition in ruthless finishing.

José Mourinho insists he still wants to add a striker before the transfer window closes next month and Danny Ings, who was the subject of an approach from Tottenham this past week, started and finished a festival of goalmouth action, converting from the penalty spot in second-half stoppage time after opening the scoring with an irresistible two-touch finish.

Mourinho made three changes from the Europa League win in Bulgaria on Thursday and compared juggling his squad with poring over a jigsaw. Finding room for Bale, who is expected to make a return from a knee injury after the October international break, and the left-back Sergio Reguilón, another signing from Real Madrid, should be a formality, but the future of Dele Alli, omitted from Spurs’ travelling party for the second time in four days, does not appear so straightforward.

“A coach always likes the best players in his squad and Gareth, when fit and in condition, is one of the top players in Europe,” Mourinho said. “And Sergio, he was amazing last season [on loan] in Sevilla. If you ask me if am happy to have these two players, I have to say yes I am. But there are other things that make a team and make a squad and the squad is a puzzle.”

The interval provided respite after a breathless first half comprising three disallowed goals, two clinical finishes and a flurry of touchline antics. When Son equalised close to half-time, Ralph Hasenhüttl wellied the advertising hoardings in anger.

“Impossible,” he roared, presumably bemoaning how Tanguy Ndombele – who was replaced at half-time by Giovani Lo Celso owing to a shortage of match sharpness – wriggled away from two Southampton shirts, brushing aside Oriol Romeu and turning James Ward-Prowse on halfway before spreading the ball wide to Kane, who slid the ball across for Son, who arrowed a vicious strike into the far pocket of Alex McCarthy’s goal.

Barely 90 seconds into the second half, and just after Che Adams spurned one of several inviting openings, Tottenham seized the lead when Kane pushed a weighted pass between Southampton’s centre-backs. From there Son made it look easy, eliminating Jack Stephens before firing a left-foot shot across goal.

Southampton showed glimpses of quality but Tottenham taught them a harsh lesson, with Son drilling beyond McCarthy after Kane effortlessly unleashed the forward with a cute dinked pass. Son wheeled away in celebration and was at it again nine minutes later, dovetailing with Kane for the fourth after the England striker drifted wide to pick up possession. Kane took one look before hooking a delicious cross towards Son, who emphatically did the rest.

It was all a far cry from when Ings opened the scoring. The goal was reminiscent of the one he dispatched in this fixture last season, when the striker bamboozled Toby Alderweireld after latching on to a looped pass. This time Eric Dier was the culprit, caught out by Kyle Walker-Peters, the former Tottenham defender, scooping the ball between him and Dávinson Sánchez. But Ings’s execution was exquisite, controlling the ball with a sumptuous first touch before smacking into the bottom corner with his next.

But when Tottenham breezed into their stride, Southampton could not stem the flow. Mourinho revealed Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, the former Saints captain, had given some pointers on where to hurt them and how vulnerable they looked as Spurs went through the gears.

McCarthy brilliantly tipped Erik Lamela’s shot on to a post, only for Kane – the man of the match in Mourinho’s eyes – to poke in a merciless fifth.

“We were too naive in the second half,” Hasenhüttl said.

Gareth Bale to Tottenham – The full picture

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Gareth Bale is on the verge of making a shock return to Tottenham Hotspur.

Almost seven-years on from his record breaking departure, a route back to London seems like the Welsh wonder’s best escape from limbo at Real Madrid.

Despite his obvious talents, Bale & Real have become a poor fit as they years have gone by, and now he’s set for the exit door, with Spurs waiting to pounce

Bale to Spurs – What we know


 It is time for Tottenham Hotspur fans to get excited.

Gareth Bale is coming home. And not only that, but he will be joined by Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Reguilon too.

Talks over a double deal have ramped up in the last couple of days and the transfer negotiations have reached such a stage that Spurs are preparing to announce both deals before the end of this week.

football.london understands that the club hope to announce the transfers on Friday, ahead of this weekend’s Premier League game against Southampton.

Bale has been linked with a return to Tottenham almost every transfer window since leaving N17 to become the then most expensive player in the world in 2013.

Reguilon has also had suitors from other Premier League clubs, namely Chelsea and Manchester United, but it is Spurs who have won the race for his signature.

The 23-year-old will move to north London on a permanent deal, thought to be in the region of £27million, although Real Madrid have insisted on having a buy-back option in the deal.

Reports have suggested that buyback clause is for around £10million more than the initial fee, so £37million and it has been reported that it will remain in place for two years.

Having buyback clauses in deals is not something Daniel Levy or the club like doing, but they were so intent on securing the services of one of Europe’s most promising full-backs that they accepted Real Madrid’s terms.

Bale, on the other hand, is a loan deal and there have been plenty of negotiations between the two clubs and Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett over the terms of that loan.

His salary at the Bernabeu has always been the sticking point when it came to hopes of Bale returning to Tottenham, but the clubs have no come to an agreement whereby Los Blancos subsidise some of his wages during his loan spell.

That split is understood to be 60-40 in favour of Madrid, with Spurs paying around 40% of his wages while on loan.

Tottenham are preparing to unveil both players on Friday, with the duo having completed MRI scans and the majority of their medicals in Spain.

Bale was at Real Madrid’s training ground on Thursday as the deal between the two clubs reaches its conclusion.

That is not likely to be the end of Tottenham’s transfer window business, with Jose Mourinho still focused on adding another striker to his ranks, while a new centre-back also remains a priority.

Dier: Bale move ‘exciting’


 Tottenham midfielder Eric Dier says the signing Gareth Bale is “exciting” for supporters, but admits Spurs’ players have not discussed the move.

Speaking ahead of Spurs’ Europa League qualifier against Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Dier was asked about the Bale news from the dressing room’s perspective.

“No, nothing on the WhatsApp group,” Dier told reporters, when asked how Tottenham’s players reacted to the reports. “Obviously there’s a lot of speculation and it’s not for me to speculate on.

“I’m sure from the fans’ point of view it’s very exciting to be linked with a player of that level. It doesn’t affect me personally. It’s not the first time there’s been a player linked with going here or there.”

When does Bale need to be registered by?

The pair of arrivals are set to be announced on Friday, football.london understands, with the aim of getting both Bale & Reguilon through the door in time for Sunday’s game at Southampton.

Spurs travel to the south coast for their second game of the Premier League season.

Mourinho’s side began the campaign with a 1-0 defeat at home to Everton so will be looking to bounce back from that disappointing result.

According to Premier League rules, players must be registered by 12pm on the Friday if they want to participate in the matches over the weekend.

It means Spurs are in a race against time to get both Bale and Reguilon signed on the dotted line by midday on Friday, September 18, if they want them to feature against Saints.

How a new-look Spurs could line up

Spurs will confirm both Bale and his Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Reguilon before the end of the transfer window.

Jose Mourinho’s double swoop will bring back Bale, and add Reguilon to the side for the 20/21 season.

Manchester United were also potentially tracking Reguilon, but Spurs leapt ahead of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in the race to sign the Spanish international.

The return of Bale would be a major boost for Spurs ahead of the 2020/21 season getting into full flight, and the arrival of Reguilon could signal a change in approach from Mourinho as part of a full-back partnership with summer signing Matt Doherty.

Spurs could be set for a new look, and at football.london we’ve got you covered. CLICK HERE to see how we think Spurs 2020 will shape-up as the deadline approaches.

A Bale return makes sense!

Barely a transfer window has passed since Gareth Bale left Tottenham in 2013 that the Welshman has not been linked with a return to N17 – but a 2020 return makes a lot of sense, writes Graham Ruthven.

The Welshman was Spurs’ best player in a generation and one of the best to have ever played in the Premier League.

But is there a chance he could return this summer? Football.london understands that Spurs are set to secure a return.

The 31-year-old is a peripheral figure at Real Madrid, with Zinedine Zidane making clear the Welshman has no real future in the Spanish capital.

Until recently, though, it appeared that Bale would simply sit out his lucrative €15 million-a-year contract on the bench. The winger is said to enjoy the lifestyle in Spain and was in no rush to make a move elsewhere. The situation, however, has changed with the news Real Madrid would be willing to pay 50% of Bale’s wages just to get him out the door (as per the Telegraph).

This makes the 31-year-old a much more realistic target for Spurs, who without this subsidy wouldn’t have been able to pay Bale’s £600,000 weekly wage. They might still struggle to pay half that, but at least a loan move, as is most likely, is now within the realms of possibility. A return could be on the cards.

Bale’s return would undeniably come attached with a certain sentimental element. As already referenced, the Welshman was Tottenham’s best player in a generation. It hurt to watch someone of his quality leave so early in his career and so his return would be a public relations victory for Daniel Levy and the club hierarchy.

His signing would also serve a tactical purpose for Jose Mourinho too. While Lucas Moura has been favoured on the right side of the Spurs attack since the arrival of the Portuguese coach last season, it is widely seen as the team’s weakest position. While Tottenham have a number of options on the left side, their depth on the right is lacking.

Moura’s efforts in Amsterdam made him a Tottenham legend, but it’s reasonable to question whether the Brazilian is producing enough on a regular basis. Last season saw him score four times and assist a further four in 35 Premier League appearances. Compare that to some of his peers in the same division (Mohamed Salah, Raheem Sterling, Mason Greenwood) and Moura’s output is lacking.

As a physical force, Bale has faded in recent seasons, with injuries a persistent issue. But if Spurs could get the Welshman fit and firing, he would be a clear upgrade on Moura on the right side of Mourinho’s attack. This is a player who, despite everything, has still managed to score 80 times in 171 appearances in all competitions for Real Madrid.

Bale is a different sort of player now to the one that left Spurs in 2013. Back then he was a mercurial winger capable of scoring stunning long-range strikes. Those long-range strikes still occur from time to time, but the Welshman isn’t as explosive as he used to be. It’s debatable whether he could even be described as a winger anymore, morphing into more of a wide forward over time.

Nonetheless, the addition of Bale to Mourinho’s squad, even on a short term loan basis, would be a good one. The Welshman would provide goal threat from the edge of the box, not to mention set piece potency and a threat in the air. It just so happens to be a bonus that Tottenham would probably sell an unprecedented number of shirts with his name on the back too.

Gareth Bale: Tottenham in talks to sign Real Madrid winger on loan

By Tom Kershaw, The Sun

Tottenham Hotspur are in talks to sign Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale on loan.

Madrid are desperate to offload Bale’s exorbitant wages and are willing to partially subsidise a deal in order to facilitate the 31-year-old’s return to the Premier League.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, said: “Gareth still loves Spurs. We are talking [Spurs, Real and Bale’s camp]. It’s where he wants to be.”

Bale joined Madrid from Spurs in 2013 for a then-world record £85m fee and has since gone on to win four Champions League titles. However, his relationship with manager Zinedine Zidane is all but broken and the Welsh international barely featured following the lockdown.

While on international duty with Wales at the start of the month, Bale admitted that he was open to returning to England but that Madrid were making any move “difficult”.

“I tried to leave last year but they [Real Madrid] blocked everything at the last second,” Bale told Sky Sports.

“It was a project I was excited for last year but it didn’t materialise. And there have been other instances but the club won’t allow it or something, so it’s up to the club.

“I want to play football. I’m still motivated to play football. I’m 31 but I’m in great shape still and I feel I’ve got a lot to give.

“We’ll see what happens. It’s in the club’s hands and they make things very difficult to be honest.”

Spurs are also in talks to sign Madrid full-back Sergio Reguilon, who had attracted interest from Manchester United, too.

Reguilon, who won the Europa League while on loan at Sevilla last season, is also out of favour under Zidane, although Madrid are thought to want to include a buy-back clause in a deal worth around £25m.