In a footballing sense, Sandro is not your run-of-the-mill Brazilian. Where Neymar would be performing pirouettes between ball and opposing player, cradling it between his left little toe and right hip, Sandro would be weighing in on the Richter scale with a tackle.
Where Hulk would be artistically wrapping his foot around a free kick, Sandro would be standing in the wall, blocking it with his temple, smiling. Where Robinho would be dancing the Samba in celebration of a wonder-goal, Sandro would be vomiting, on live TV, over and over again.
Perhaps it’s due to this unfashionable manliness that Sandro remains so criminally underrated. Or maybe it’s thanks to the fact that he’s ignorantly seen by many as nothing more than a backup to Scott Parker; a squad player. Or maybe it’s because in the majority of his Tottenham Hotspur appearances he’s been alongside one of the most capable midfielders of the lot in Luka Modric. Or maybe, most likely, it’s due to the fact that he plays for our beloved Spurs.
The 23-year-old Brazilian is the very definition of a combative midfielder; always challenging for the ball, always closing down the space, always on the move. He brings near unrivalled industry and tenacity to the Tottenham team, attributes that we have so dearly lacked for too long. Seeing him bare his gum shield as he bravely nicks the ball from an opposition player’s foot with a perfectly timed lunge gives a feeling of both satisfaction and excitement that equals many a goal.
But as is the way with every true box to box midfielder, his talents are not confined to his defensive qualities. Although not known for creating play, Sandro does have the tendency to take that extra touch on the ball and to look for the more intelligent, probing pass, rather than just robotically giving and receiving.
And those passes find the mark more often than not. His goal scoring prowess, while not astounding, shouldn’t be brushed aside either. Known more for his thunderous long-shots than for his poaches, he’s certainly capable of weighing in with a few useful goals over the course of a season.
Mere words can never do a class player justice though; you have to have watched him to know what I mean. Some of you will be reading this and lightly nodding in agreement, others will be hurriedly opening “new tab” and going to YouTube whilst the rest will be laughing at my unmistakable bias, my incredible ignorance – it’s these people that will be proven wrong this season.
With Tottenham’s limited striking options, Andre Villas-Boas’ love for a 4-3-3 and the squad’s strength in depth in midfield, it’s fair to say that Spurs are likely to be fielding a three-man midfield for most of this season, which is why Sandro will finally have a proper chance to shine.
One of those three is likely to be a more attacking option, in the shape of Rafael van der Vaart or Gylfi Sigurdsson. And one will be a more defensive option – Parker or Jake Livermore. Leaving one remaining place, a place specially set aside for our resident Brazilian.
While other players in the Spurs midfield have direct competition, Sandro has none. No one in the squad offers what he does. Defensively strong, holds his ground technically and has the ability to get forward. No…no one else in the Tottenham midfield can offer that. And what’s more, Villas-Boas loves a midfielder that has such an all-round game. With FC Porto, his three-man midfield would all be responsible for attacking, defending and creating, and although he unsuccessfully tried to implement such a midfield at Chelsea, the Portuguese man will not have changed his footballing philosophy.
In the long run, under Villas-Boas the Tottenham midfield will come closer to resembling the midfield he once had at Porto. But for now, the Portuguese tactician will have to make do with what he has, and with Sandro being our only real box to box type midfielder, I expect his role in the team to become more and more secured.
Parker’s six-week Achilles tendon injury combined with Modric’s eternal state of transfer limbo leave Sandro as the main man in the three-man Tottenham midfield. His tough pre-season with Brazil at the Olympics may come back to bite him towards the tail end of the season, but in the early months it will give him a greater sharpness and match fitness; he will be ready to shine.
Sandro has had to wait a while for his opportunity to make the first-team berth his own after his move from Internacional, despite having consistently impressive outings, but the opportunity has finally come. It’s time for Sandro to prove to the masses what the Brazilian national setup and the Tottenham faithful already know. That he’s a class act. More importantly perhaps, a class act willing to fight for the chicken badge.
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