Will Tottenham Hotspur Ever See the Best from Zeki Fryers?
Trying to prove Sir Alex Ferguson wrong has become a mountain to climb for Tottenham Hotspur left-back Zeki Fryers.
Tottenham's UEFA Europa League opponent, the winless Sheriff Tiraspol, gave Fryers another opportunity to push his case for a more prominent role in Andre Villas-Boas' starting XI.
33 minutes into the game, adversity struck for Fryers—he pulled a groin muscle.
Gutted to come off injured but great win for us! #COYS— Zeki Fryers (@edf92) October 24, 2013
It's not the first time he has battled back from hardship, as Ferguson pointed out in 2011.
"He had really terrible tonsilitis and was out for over two months," said Ferguson, via Adam Marshall at ManUtd.com. "He missed the FA Youth Cup final because of it."
When Ferguson included Fryers in a list of academy players (Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison, Jesse Lingard, Larnell Cole and Michael Keane) with high upside, the then United manager provided a disclaimer.
"They're all training with the first team," said Ferguson, via Adam Marshall at ManUtd.com. "That allows me to see how they cope playing against seasoned professionals, it lets me judge their temperament."
Fryers would only make six appearances during the 2011-12 campaign, so it was clear where Ferguson stood.
Feeling slighted, Fryers channeled his inner Jean-Marc Bosman and left United on a free transfer.
A year earlier, Fryers was just thankful for being in the first team after describing his previous season as a "downer", a reference to him undergoing knee surgery.
"Spurs were interested but the fee was too much," said Fryers, via Stuart Mathieson at The Manchester Evening News. "Then Standard Liege arrived with a good opportunity for me to play regular games and get experience."
The problem with the latter statement was it not being true.
Belgian international Jelle Van Damme, a versatile footballer built like a brick house, was always going to receive more games as a left-back than at centre-back or left wing.
Sebastien Pocognoli, also a Belgian international, was competing with Fryers for the games Van Damme wasn't starting at left-back.
This is why Fryers featured seven times for Standard between September 2012 and January 2013.
Tottenham did a superb PR job in pointing out Fryers' lack of playing time and his homesickness, and it was his representatives who "made contact with clubs in England", per Jamie Jackson at The Guardian.
Here's a basic outline of what happened, per Mark Ogden at The Telegraph.
- When Spurs were interested in signing Fryers, United demanded a £6 million compensation fee which was promptly rebuffed.
- Standard signed Fryers on a Bosman and paid United £250,000 in compensation.
- Tottenham paid Standard £900,000 and £45,000 to United in compensation.
- Standard make an easy £650,000 profit for a player who wasn't even a regular starter.
- Spurs circumvent United's £6 million compensation fee demand by signing Fryers from Standard.
- United are the obvious loser since they received £295,000 for an academy prospect with first-team potential.
Seems Zeki Fryers's Standard stay was merely a stopgap as I suspected in August.— The Belgian Waffle (@TheBelgianWffle) January 3, 2013
No wonder Ferguson came out guns blazing.
"I think it's a blatant manipulation of the rules," said Ferguson, from MUTV via Sky Sports. "It's a Daniel Levy deal."
The other angle to the Fryers story was him being low-balled during contractual negotiations.
According to Sami Mokbel at The Daily Mail, Fryers was offered £1,500 a week to extend with United while Spurs were willing to pay him £20,000 a week.
It's not anything new.
Ask Mark Bosnich, the only United player Ferguson signed twice, and the Australian will give you a similar story, per Fox Sports:
I also recall during contract negotiations, he didn't want me to use my agent.
I listened to him, and there he was with the [then] chairman Martin Edwards and I was staying pretty strong to a certain figure I wanted.
He replied: "you would've taken £200 a week when you were 17."
I replied: "I'm not 17 or 18 anymore. I know you know me as Mark Bosnich the player, but I'm going to be Mark Bosnich the agent today."
He looked at me like: "who the hell do you think you are."
The same tactic used on Pogba, one of the six players Ferguson felt could breakout, closed the door at United and opened the door for Juventus.
Pogba, the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup Golden Ball recipient, played 38 games in his first season for Juve and is a world-class midfielder in the making.
Fryers was not an option at left-back for Spurs last season.
The club used Jan Vertonghen, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Naughton.
This season: different players, same story.
Do you rate Fryers?
Fryers is behind Danny Rose and Naughton, who made his name as a right-back not a left-back.
When you think about it, Fryers' career so far is built more on hype than substance.
It's natural to rate him since if he wasn't any good, Ferguson wouldn't have launched such a public attack on Spurs.
In hindsight, when Ferguson was moaning about losing Fryers, it wasn't a testimony saying the left-back would be great.
It was Ferguson trying to soothe his bruised ego after being outwitted by a genius in Levy.
Alex Ferguson: "I and Daniel Levy had many scraps. His number one priority is Tottenham and thats no bad thing." #THFC— Hotspur Related (@HotspurRelated) October 22, 2013
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?