Has Harry Redknapp lost his mind, or is the Tottenham manager showing exactly why he is one of England’s top managers? The signing of William Gallas, ex-captain of Tottenham’s fiercest rivals Arsenal, on a free transfer has all the hallmarks of the wheeling, dealing Spurs manager.
Redknapp is a master of the transfer market. He has taken temperamental or unwanted stars and given them the environment to recapture their top form. He has successfully turned around the careers of Paolo Di Canio, Kanu and David James, to mention just a few. However, in William Gallas he has made arguably his highest profile gamble.
With two Premier League medals and 84 caps for France, it is amazing that a player of Gallas’ calibre could remain without a club for so long. Negotiations with the team from Ashburton Grove stalled over his wage demands and, probably more significantly, the length of contract.
Muted moves to Italy, with Juventus and Roma, failed to materialise. Then Redknapp pounced. The offer of a one year contract, with an automatic one year extension if the Frenchman plays enough games, and the chance to remain in London has apparently convinced Gallas to sign on the dotted line. Redknapp thinks Gallas could have earned more money elsewhere. But are Spurs fans happy?
When rumours about Gallas first surfaced, a lot of fans dismissed them as the result of a bored media in an inactive transfer window. Harry had other ideas. Concerns over the lack of cover for the centre back position have propelled him into action.
There are doubts that Jonathan Woodgate will ever resume his professional career again, having last kicked a ball in November, while Ledley King’s knee problems are well documented.
Results in pre-season, where Villarreal scored four and Fiorentina two in games at White Hart Lane, must have troubled Harry and the sloppy thirty minutes against Young Boys forced him to take action.
A lack of pace was exposed on numerous occasions in the first leg. Gallas may have lost half a yard over the years but he remains quick and no doubt his Champions League experience would be massively appreciated. On a free transfer, it seems Harry was right when he called the move a ‘no-brainer’.
When questioned, Redknapp said of his new signing, and the Spurs-Arsenal issue: "It's all cobblers. What's he done? It's not the Yorkshire Ripper I'm signing, is it? He's a footballer, he plays football."
Despite some temperamental moments, Claudio Ranieri, Arsene Wenger and Harry Redknapp have all defended Gallas and commended him on his exceptional standards and desire to win. That single-minded determination to win is something that Harry wants in his dressing room, as seen by his re-signing of Robbie Keane and his attempts to buy Craig Bellamy.
Rather than avoid the so-called trouble makers Harry welcomes them, confident in his man-management skills and the ability to integrate and spread that winning mentality in his teams. If Gallas had played in Berne would Spurs have been such a shambles in the opening half hour?
Given the limited game time of two of Spurs’ four centre backs and one injury, the Frenchman could play forty games this season. With a season in Europe on the cards, the likelyhood of players picking up injuries will increase and Gallas will be needed.
The cut in basic wage, no doubt offset by a signing on fee, plus the option of a second year and the calamity of France’s World Cup may spur Gallas on to one last shot at glory. If he can integrate himself into the squad, then the signing will be quite a coup.
Will the fans take to him? In David Bentley and Jaime O’Hara, the club already have two ex-Arsenal players on the books, and one of the great legends of the Lane, Pat Jennings, had a spell at the Gunners.
There has been a somewhat alarming lack of activity at Tottenham and Gallas would only be the second signing of the season, after the Brazilian Sandro. If Woodgate and King get back on the pitch the fans may wonder why Harry gambled with Gallas, but if the ex-Chelsea player scores the winner in the North London Derby there will be no one complaining about the transfer.
Ultimately, the fans should wait to see the performances Gallas puts in for the Lilywhites. If he plays well Harry will be vindicated, and Spurs can enjoy getting one up on their closest rivals.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.