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What former Spurs, if any, would get back into our team?

To the Lane and Back couldn’t help but look on in envy as Kevin-Prince Boateng scored an absolute screamer against Barcelona on Wednesday, or even watching Dimitar Berbatov make a rare appearance for United in their 2-2 draw with Benfica. What really got us, however, was the fact that these players were once part of previous Spurs squads so it got us wondering, would they still be part of our starting XI? or even part of the 18-man squad for that matter? We divulged the queries at hand and made our own conclusions. 

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Having watched the mid-week Champions League encounters and pondering what could have been had we signed that much needed striker in January, it was interesting to see a number of former Tottenham players crop up. Kevin Prince-Boateng for AC Milan, Dimitar Berbatov for Manchester United and Didier Zokora for Trabzonspor all played their part mid-week and it got me thinking as to which former Spurs players would break back into our current starting XI should the opportunity present itself?

Naturally, hindsight is always a wonderful thing. If some players had turned out better than they were after they were sold, chances are they wouldn’t have been shown the exit door while, if they were known to have been a flop during their stint at White Hart Lane, then the kind of money spent on them probably would have been used elsewhere.

To start, To the Lane and Back shall be looking at the aforementioned trio:

Kevin-Prince Boateng (2007-2009)

I think it’s fair to say that KPB never really got his chance to excel at White Hart Lane during his 18 months with the club. The German born Ghanaian arrived in 2007 from Hertha BSC as a huge prospect, and one expected to challenge in all positions across the midfield. Yet, it took him four months to make his first appearance under Martin Jol but, following his debut, saw his first team opportunities increase under the Dutchman.

However, when Jol was fired and Juande Ramos bought in, Boateng again saw his first-team opportunities limited and was forced to play reserves football. Harry Redknapp’s arrival did little to convince the midfielder his future lay at White Hart Lane and after featuring sporadically in the Carling Cup, the 24-year-old moved to Borussia Dortmund on loan for the remainder of the 2008/09 season.

A permanent move ahead of the 2009/10 season to Portsmouth saw Boateng resurrect his stalling career and his impressive performances caught the attention of Italian giants AC Milan. Now a key member of Massimiliano Allegri starting XI, making 31 league appearances, scoring six goals in the process, since arriving 2010, it appears as though Boateng is living up to his massive potential.

His physical attributes and athletic physique meant he should have been a starter for Spurs from the day he arrived, especially when the competition wasn’t anywhere near the quality it is today. It is evident he packs enough talent to really test Europe’s elite and his strike against Barcelona on Wednesday night is testament to that.

Would he get into the current Spurs squad?

Very debatable. Arguably a very, very talented midfielder and his best role would most likely be in the centre-midfield. But, with Luka Modric, Scott Parker and Rafael Van der Vaart the first choice trio in the middle of the park at the moment, it is unlikely he would be breaking into the starting XI. He would most likely be challenging Aaron Lennon for a spot on the right flank and, judging by his performances in Milan, would be at all out of place there.

But, with Lennon performing so well at the moment, chances are he would have to settle for a spot on the bench, albeit, ahead of Niko Kranjcar and Steven Pienaar as back-up for the aforementioned quartet and Gareth Bale. So while being a handy squad member and one that could challenge to current crop to a starting spot, a place amongst the substitutes is the best he may have to settle for.

Dimitar Berbatov (2006-2008)

Berbatov moved to White Hart Lane back in 2006 and despite arriving with a lot of promise, took until November to really settle into his new surroundings and adjusting to the rigours of the Premiership. Nevertheless, his form in Europe helped catapult the club to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup that season and into 2007, he began to show why Spurs had paid out almost £11m to former club Bayer Leverkusen in order to secure his services.

Oozing in class, the Spurs fans were delighted to see a player of the Bulgarian’s quality and even compared his impact on each and every game to the of Glenn Hoddle in his heyday. But, with each impressive performance turning heads across the league, the vultures began to circle. Manchester United were credited with an interest in Berbatov and it’s hardly surprising that, as the 2008 summer transfer window wore on, the rumours began to hasten linking the 30-year-old with a move to Old Trafford.

Needless to say, he finally secured his move to the Red Devils, after refusing to play while his proposed move dragged on and while some fans are still critical of the striker, it is hard to deny his talent was truly mesmerising during his two-year stint in North London. 70 league appearances and 27 league goals, a return of almost a goal-a-game, coupled with his hold-up play and ability to bring others in to the game was pivotal to his approach to every game.

Calm on the ball, as witnessed during the Carling Cup win in 2008 where his penalty levelled matters on the afternoon, his style of play was reminiscent to the great Zinedine Zidane, in which he would slow the game down to his own pace and dictate play from the front. However, now considered a bench-warming at United, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck all occupying the space in front of him in the pecking order, it remains to be seen whether or not he will be part of Sir Alex Fergusons squad at the end of the current campaign.

Would he get into the current Spurs squad?

Comfortably. Whether he would be starting, however, is a different matter altogether. After he left for United in 2008, a big Berbatov-esc void was left and despite Darren Bent, Jermain Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko attempting to fill the gap, all have shown limited success in their attempts to lead the front-line like the Bulgarian did.

Emmanuel Adebayor arrived over the summer and the big Togolese man has shown he is more than capable of successfully replicating the Bulgarian’s form, if not bettering it. Five goals and four assists in nine games since he moved to White Hart Lane is an impressive record while his hard work off the ball and link-up play has been a joy to behold.

Adebayor would be Berbatov’s main competitor if he were to re-join Spurs but I can’t see him dislodging the 27-year-old should he ever return. With that in mind, a partnership of Berbatov and Van der Vaart would be something of a joy to behold, it must be said.

Didier Zokora (2006-2009)

Zokora arrived in N17 in the summer of 2006 and was charged with the seemingly impossible task of replacing Michael Carrick, who had been sold to Manchester United just months prior to his arrival. After some excellent displays for Ivory Coast in the 2006 World Cup, it has been reported that United, Chelsea and Arsenal were all keen on signing the 30-year-old.

Naturally, replacing a ball playing midfielder for a tenacious combative one was like trying to fit a square peg into a circle hole, but credit to Zokora he attempted to fill the void of the recently departed England international alongside Jermaine Jenas, Teemu Tainio or Edgar Davids in the middle.

Hard-working, energetic and full of stamina, Zokora had all the physical attributes that are required of a successful defensive midfielder. But, when it came to the mental side of his game, the Ivorian was rather erratic in his play. Poor touches were often capitalised upon by the opposition and his inability to score was detrimentally evident during his time at Spurs, playing a total of 88 league games but failing to hit the net at least once.

Nonetheless, it was his passion and energy that endeared him to the Spurs fans and part of the reason he became a quick fan favourite was his rapport with the supporters. Unfortunately, he wasn’t up to the required level that Spurs needed at the time and many believed that Wilson Palacios was the required upgrade of the player and, following the Honduran’s
arrival, was more or less surplus to requirements.

Sold to Sevilla, his speed was beneficial to the Andalucian side and his style of play suited La Liga down to a tee. It is no surprise that he helped his side to another top four finish and a Copa Del Rey during his two year stint in Spain. Now with Turkish outfit Trabzonspor, he has started off well at his new club and are now only one win away from securing a last 16 spot in the Champions league.

Would he get into the current Spurs squad?

Not a chance in today’s Spurs team. Was sold because Palacios was simply better than him. The Honduran was sold over the summer because he wasn’t up to the standards of Scott Parker or Sandro. As much as he was a fans favourite during his time at the club, he isn’t as good as what is available to Redknapp. Would be sixth in the pecking order, behind the above duo, Modric, Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore, and with the academy players showing monumental promise in Europe, chances are he would have been sold in January were he still at Spurs.

Michael Carrick (2004-2006)

One season in the Championship and Carrick felt an itching desire to be back amongst the Premier League’s elite. Arsenal, Everton and Portsmouth were all linked with a move for the England international but it was Spurs who won the race for the midfielder’s signature. Injury hindered his early impact and even when recovered while then manager Jacques Santini often over-looked the former West Ham United trainee.

However, when Martin Jol took over the reins, the now 30-year-old was instilled as the creative force in the centre of the park. Often running things from the midfield, Carrick was lauded for his impressive vision and passing ability and it is hardly surprising that Jol didn’t want to sell him when Manchester United became interested in him.

Sir Alex Ferguson felt Carrick was the player to replace the recently departed Roy Keane and, despite Spurs’ best efforts to keep hold of him, he moved to United for a fee that could have risen to around £18m by now. Now considered a key member of the Red Devils starting XI, some believe the move was a right one by Carrick.

Would he get into the current Spurs squad?

Questionable. While still a midfielder at the top of his game, he would struggle to really usurp Modric and Parker in the middle. Add Sandro and Tom Huddlestone, a player of similar capability to Carrick, to the mix and you would be hard pressed as to whether he would even find a place on the bench.

Arguably still able to do a job at the highest level, evident by being part of the United set-up. But, that could only be due to the fact that both Anderson and Tom Cleverly are both currently out. Nevertheless, with Modric and Parker both occupying the starting spots, and not looking like being dropped anytime soon, should Carrick be back, chances are he would be fourth choice behind Sandro on the bench.

Ben McAleer

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