Left out in the rain: AVB's top priority is to be in next year's Champions League.
Aged just 35, Andre Villas-Boas has already accomplished more than most managers will in their entire career. From landing the head coach role of the British Virgin Islands national team when he was just 21, to winning the a treble of Primeira Liga, Portuguese Cup and Europa League with Porto 12 years later, the only uncharted territory for the Mourinho understudy remains the Champions League.
Of course there was the short-lived “Chelsea Project”, in which Villas-Boas did manage to pull Chelsea out of the group stage before being relieved of his duties a few days later, but there was always the feeling that AVB had one of Abramovich’s heavies hanging over him when it came to selecting the team.
A little over a year later and Villas-Boas is at Tottenham, where he has the freedom to build a team without the interference of a meddling owner, and on top of that, a fairly generous transfer budget.
Despite going out of this year’s Europa League quarter-final on penalties to Basel, a competition that the Portuguese certainly had a view to win, there is a sense that this is just the beginning. If Spurs can push either Arsenal or Chelsea out of the Top Four by mid-May, the only dalliance with the Europa League they have will be an unwanted inconvenience, a result of elimination from the big table. Because next season, at least AVB hopes, is all about the Champions League.
If Spurs are to embark on their second campaign in Europe’s elite competition, there needs to be a significant shake up at White Hart Lane. AVB is a man who needs time to reshape his squad, easing out the old guard for young, upcoming talent, and in Daniel Levy he has a chairman who, while not without his faults, shares that same will to win and has a pocketbook to back it up.
Since arriving at Tottenham in 2007 Bale has blossomed into the one of the PL's leading talents.
The first name on the list of players who may need to be replaced is Gareth Bale, though his situation is more when than if. Should Tottenham finish in the Top Four then Bale may stay for another year—if they fail it is very unlikely that they will hold onto their star player, with the top clubs in Europe including Barcelona and Real Madrid having shown interest in the past.
To try and name any player capable of replacing Bale that will sign for Tottenham is risky enough, especially when considering that they may have to find one without having the lure of Champions League football on their side. However, the title of this article does include the word “bold” in it, so we'll throw caution to the wind.
While it is highly improbable that AVB will find a Bale replica, he can go some way to making up for the crucial goals that the Welshman provides. Considering that Emmanuel Adebayor could easily be moved on, not for a lack of goals but rather an unimpressive attitude which renders his play ineffective and languid, it wouldn’t be unwise of Villas-Boas to invest in two strikers.
Lewandowski has shown that he is capable of more than just scoring goals.
Robert Lewandowski is a name that springs to mind.
His strength and ability to hold up play would be very well suited to the Premier League and Tottenham, but with both Manchester United and Chelsea reportedly interested, and Dortmund likely to ask for hefty fee in the wake of Mario Gotze’s departure for Bayern Munich, AVB will have to do some serious negotiating to capture one of Europe’s most in-form strikers.
His price tag will have increased by about £5 million after he put four past Diego Lopez in Dortmund's 4-1 Champions League semi-final victory over Real Madrid, and further highlights how far he has come since moving from Lech Poznan in 2010.
Gomez has found himself with limited opportunities to impress this season.
Mario Gomez is another big striker who scores consistently enough to fill the Bale void. He has lost his first-team place at Bayern to summer signing Mario Mandzukich and will enter the last two years of his contract this summer, but when given the chance this season the German international has illustrated why he is still one of the top-rated hitmen in Europe. However, effective as he is, he is not as complete a player as Lewandowski and relies mainly on his ability to anticipate balls into the box, so AVB would have to bring in a playmaker to feed him.
The longer you try and analyse it, the harder it seems to properly compensate for the loss of a player such as Gareth Bale. And with Jermain Defoe beginning to show his age, Villas-Boas also needs a long-term replacement—a young player who is happy not playing every week but will stay with the club for years to come.
Strootman has built upon his domestic reputation with some strong international shifts recently.
Kevin Strootman has long been linked to a Premier League move, with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool having shown considerable interest, so perhaps AVB could shrewdly slip under the radar and bring the Dutch international into his own plans.
Strootman would be more than a good replacement for the ageing Scott Parker, as Sandro has struggled to break free of injury this term and will take a while to get back up to speed, while Tom Huddlestone recently hinted he may quit the Lane in search of regular game time. The Dutchman is only 23, sufficiently young for AVB to have an influence in his development leading up to the peak years of 26-29, with vision that compares to that of a young Paul Scholes. At 6’2” he is no diminutive player, which is ideal for the Premier League and a team like Tottenham who are not exactly brimming with giants, and having a familiar face in Jan Vertonghen behind him will help settle him in.
In light of the speculation it has been reported that Strootman is likely to listen to offers in the summer, but hasn’t given any indication that he holds a club in preference, which, when possibly going up against the reigning Premier League champions for his signature, seems Tottenham’s best hope.
Samba could be tempted by a move to White Hart Lane, especially if Champions League football is on the cards.
A centre-back would also deepen the squad for those congested March and April schedules that Tottenham so badly crave.
This season has highlighted the lack of cover at the back, with injuries to Kaboul and Gallas leaving Spurs thin on the ground, especially when going into the European weeks. If they are serious about their Champions League ambitions then the only option would be to bring in a top class defender, someone who can convincingly deputise for Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen.
With QPR almost certainly relegation-bound, ex-Blackburn and Anzhi centre-half Chris Samba could be open for talks, as his club will be looking to trim their exorbitant wage bill for a spell in the Championship.
At 6’ 4” Samba is a fearsome presence, though a lack of top level experience and his age may prove to be too much baggage for AVB. But during his time in the Premier League the Congo international has showcased his ability to marshal the back four, being one of Blackburn’s standout performers in their final season in the top flight. Despite his contract with QPR, which will have three years remaining this summer, Samba is a quality centre-back who will be more open for a move to Spurs than most others, even if they fail to place in the Top Four. `