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Back To The Future For Tottenham Hotspur

Tim Holt
955   //    28 Mar 2011, 08:36 IST

In 1978, the then Tottenham Hotspur manager Keith Burkinshaw indulged in what was a brave move at the time by investing in two Argentine stars in Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa, the risk being that foreign players traditionally struggled with the unique English game.  Plus the lack of English knowledge for the two players was seen as a huge drawback.

Tottenham greats Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles during their playing days at White Hart Lane

However, against all odds, Ardiles and Villa proved to be outstanding players for Tottenham with Ardiles, in particular, in partnership with Glenn Hoddle in the Spurs midfield turning them into one of the most beautiful sides to watch in the English game.  Aside from the aesthetic display of football that they started to become famous for, that Spurs side turned out to be one of the most successful sides, being a constant threat in the League and winning the FA Cup back to back in 1981 and 1982.  The 1981 replay was famous for more than just Spurs winning the Cup against Manchester City as Villa scored what was judged as the goal of the century at Wembley.

Ardiles and Villa were at the forefront of all of Tottenham’s success then and went to achieve more greatness with their one-field displays and were inducted into the Tottenham Hall of Fame as heroes in 2008. Roll on some 23 years to 2011 and it seems there is a repeat tale of two foreign talents becoming the heart-beat of the team, in the form of the exceptional Croatian duo of Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar.  There are plenty of similarities between the Argentine and the Croatian duos.  Modrid and Kranjcar, like their Argentine predecessors, have been overwhelming successes at Spurs with Modric, in particular, emerging as one of the hottest talents in the football scene.  By employing the Croat as a playmaker, Harry Redknapp has harnessed the complete potential of Modric and brought to the limelight his ability to bamboozle defenders with deft foot-work and skills, a great eye for a defence-splitting pass and also a brilliant shot, thus helping raise his stock on the international market and grow to become one of the best playmakers in the world at the moment.  Tottenham’s reliance on Modric has grown so much over the years that he is now the heart and soul of the team, a player who Redknapp wouldn’t part with even for a billion dollars.

“I wouldn’t want to sell him for £100million, not even for a billion.  He’s the hub of the team.”

Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar: Reincarnations of the '80s Argentine duo that set White Hart Lane on fire

If Modric is the reincarnation of Ardiles, Kranjcar has done his best to live up to the name of Ricky Villa with regards to his gift of scoring crucial goals that have propelled Spurs to such success in recent seasons.  Only the remarkable rise of Gareth Bale in the recent past has limited Kranjcar’s appearances, though none can deny his value to Spurs as a substitute or whenever he starts.   In tandem, this Croatian duo have been the catalyst for the beautiful football that Spurs are popular for today, much like the aesthetic football revolution that the two Argentinian greats instigated during their careers at White Hart Lane.

Like Ardiles and Villa, Modric and Kranjcar have been at the forefront of the success that Tottenham Hotspur have been enjoying in the recent past, the most notable success being the qualification to the Champions League last year which will go down as the one of the most glorious chapters in the annals of the club’s history.  Not resting on their laurels, Tottenham have continued the good work with a great run in the tournament this season and have got into the quarter-finals to win a dream date with Real Madrid, thanks to the great work by their dynamic midfield duo.  With two brilliant midfield playmakers at his disposal, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Harry Redknapp can take his team all the way to glory at Wembley.   The European dream run aside, the rise of the Croatian duo has also helped Tottenham become a genuine contender in the Premier League title race after being a sleeping giant for too long, very similar to the feat achieved by Villa and Ardiles 23 years ago in the glorious eighties.  Modric and Kranjcar have impressed immensely, but they have a long road ahead of them to be considered amongst the game’s true greats.  There is no doubt that the duo can go on to become two of the best playmakers in the world, given more time to improve and impress.  When that day of reckoning comes, there will be no stopping the already high-flying Spurs.

Edited by Zico