Saturday, October 10, 2009

World Cup Year at Tottenham Hotspur: Vieira, Muntari In? Roman and Giovani Out?

Sulley Muntari could be set to end his time in Italy and leave Jose Mourinho's Serie A champions Inter Milan for Tottenham Hotspur in January after the player's agent admitted the two clubs are in talks.

Spurs could also be adding ex-Arsenal veteran Patrick Vieira to their ranks as they look to make a concerted effort to break the top four.

Muntari has struggled as of late with Inter, and was roundly jeered off the pitch by his own fans last weekend after he was substituted in Inter Milan's win over Udinese.

The Ghanan international has found it difficult to break into Jose Mourinho's plans this season, and he initially rebuked Tottenham's approach in the summer as he felt he could break into the Inter team.

Earlier this season, Jose Mourinho caused much furor amongst Islamic imam after he substituted Muntari during a game and blamed the player's diet during Ramadan.

When managing Portsmouth, Harry Redknapp bought Muntari for a club record £7m. The powerful midfielder enjoyed a great season on the south coast of England winning the FA Cup before Inter Milan came in with a bid of around £15m for the player.

Initially the move back to Italy proved very successful and he scored the winner against Juventus in the Derby D'Italia.

He went on to become an important part of the Inter team that claimed their fourth Scudetto in a row, but has failed to make an impression this year.

During the summer, Spurs inquired about the midfielder's availability, and Inter gave them permission to talk to the player, but it is also believed that Mourinho wanted an exchange deal for Jermaine Jenas and cash before he would let Muntari leave.

Now with the player out of contention, Mourinho seems to have given Spurs the okay for a future move.

"The two clubs are still talking about this case. It could happen," said his representative Frank Schreier, when asked about the proposed move.

Muntari's signing would mean far more competition in central midfield, and could have ramifications for both Jermaine Jenas, as well as Tom Huddlestone, who has only really begun to establish himself at White Hart Lane this season.

It could also have an effect on Luka Modric on the left side of midfield, who is being widely touted as a replacement for Paul Scholes at Old Trafford.

In looking to strengthen centre midfield, Harry has also signaled that he is interested in signing Patrick Vieira. Although in the twilight years of his career, he would be seen as an immense influence on a team without many characters.

The ex-Arsenal player has also only played twice under Jose Mourinho this term, and with France on the verge of World Cup qualification, he knows he needs first-team football to gain a place in their squad for South Africa.

With that in mind, Spurs should have jumped Arsenal in the queue for his signature, as at the Gunners he would only be a bit-part player, signed chiefly for his influence, whereas at Spurs he would be an instant squad member.

"I think Patrick would improve us. He would give us a real presence in the team. He's been there, he's done it all, he's a fantastic professional. He's a leader," said Redknapp earlier this summer.

"You need people who have been there and done it and won it and that's what he would give you.

"He's got a good contract there (Milan) but he's definitely interested and I'm interested in him coming. The players will respond to him. He's a proper professional.

"He was a legend at Arsenal and he wants to come to Tottenham to play, not for the money. The money is probably a third of the money he was earning at Milan.

"He wants to come because he wants to play football. He would bring an awful lot to our football club."

The combative French midfielder was believed to be on the verge of a move to Spurs before his old mentor Arsene Wenger entered the fray.

But as Arsenal stalled on Inter's asking price, Mourinho pulled the plug on any potential deal.

Vieira's signing would have a massive impact on the future career of Spurs' prodigy John Bostock.

Since signing from Crystal Palace last year, the young star has been a huge part of the youth and reserve side.

The central midfielder put in a series of eye-catching displays as Spurs won their section of the Academy league before progressing to a playoff final against their bitter rivals Arsenal, where they were narrowly beaten 1-0.

Indeed, Redknapp has earmarked Bostock as a future captain of the club, and the potential Vieira signing would be have an immediate impact on him in two ways.

Firstly, it would move him further down the pecking order, leaving him with less opportunity to get into the first team. But more importantly it would give him direct contact to learn from one of the great midfielders of the 21st century.

In the long run, this would probably suit both player and club much more.

One other area that Redknapp is striving to strengthen is centre half. He had a bid rejected for Sunderland's Anton Ferdinand on transfer deadline day.

It will be very interesting to see if he goes back with an improved bid, especially as his No. 2 target, Gary Cahill of Bolton, has doubled in value over the last year with a series of eye-catching performances for the Trotters.

Redknapp is also a huge fan of David Beckham's, but is not believed to to be interested in taking the English international on loan in the new year, as he feels that the ex-United player would not have the stamina to play consecutive matches in the EPL, especially as Spurs are currently carrying Ledley King in a similar situation through injury.

Two players who could be on their way out of White Hart Lane in January are Roman Pavlyuchenko and Giovani Dos Santos.

Both are internationals for Russia and Mexico respectively, and like Vieira, need first-team football to force their way into their World Cup squads.

Peter Crouch's signing pushed Pavlyuchenko further down Harry's striking options and with the three players ahead of him in such fantastic form he has only seen a couple of minutes worth of action this year.

Growing frustrated with his time on the bench, Pav is now openly seeking a return to Russia, and his international manager, Guus Hiddink, is encouraging him to move as soon as possible.

Roman pulled a muscle (in training for Russia),' said Hiddink. 'We need to see how it reacts in training on Friday. 'I'm concerned. Pavlyuchenko has no match practice at Tottenham and his body seems to be unaccustomed to intense stress.

"I can't say that we had an intense workout, but I've connected the nature of his injury with a lack of match practice for Roman. You can't say he is immune from the same stresses in the match against Germany.

'The fact that he doesn't play, and wasn't even in the squad for the last match, disturbs both us and him."

The big forward has struggled to settle in London since his £13.8 million transfer from Spartak Moscow last summer. At the start, his fitness was well below par, as he was in the middle of his second straight year of competitive football without a break.

With Juande Ramos' dreadful reign at the club having a massive effect on his confidence, Pavlyuchenko found it difficult to gain Redknapp's trust.

He did however manage to score 15 goals in 39 games, including nine in eight cup games as Spurs progressed to the Carling Cup final.

When Crouch was signed for Spurs in the summer, Spartak Moscow immediately stated they were more than interested in signing their former star for the reduced fee of £10 million. But Daniel Levy gave them a terse "not interested."

Since then Pavlyuchenko has openly courted Zenit St. Petersburg who are very interested, it is also believed that Harry has convinced Levy to let his striker go for the reduced fee of £10 million in the hope of bringing in another player or two.

Another player on the books at Spurs with serious World Cup prospects is Mexico's Giovani Dos Santos.

The creative forward has also seen his time on the pitch limited due to the form of Keane, Defoe, and chiefly Aaron Lennon and is looking for a loan move come January.

When Giovani signed from Barcelona last summer, it was seen as a massive coup for the club, but has so far struggled to adapt to the physicality and speed of the English game.

An impressive and enjoyable loan spell at Ipswich last year saw the young Mexican gain first-team football, as he slowly began to acclimatize to English football.

However with Spurs impressive start to the season having the knock on effect of the team not changing much and his country going to South Africa, he has signaled to Redknapp that he would like a loan move as soon as possible.

Ipswich are again the favourites to gain his signature, but with Roy Keane's men without a win since the start of the season and struggling at the foot of the Championship, it remains to be seen if this would be the best environment for Giovani's game to progress.

It's an important year, as World Cup years always are. There will be massive ramifications for almost every player in the first team squad, as their respective countries challenge for those final 32 places in South Africa.

It speaks much of the club that only Carlo Cudicini from the first team squad was left to train alone when the international fixtures were played in September.

And it will be very interesting to see who comes and goes in January, especially if Spurs are still challenging for European football.

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