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Ranking Tottenham's 25 Greatest Players This Century

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2014

Ranking Tottenham's 25 Greatest Players This Century

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    Will Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor be counted among Tottenham's best players of this century so far?
    Will Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor be counted among Tottenham's best players of this century so far?Michael Regan/Getty Images

    With a good 86 years still to go, there is plenty of time for several players to stake a claim as one of Tottenham Hotspur's greatest of the century.

    But waiting until 2100 seems a little too extreme to reflect on the finest footballers to have represented Tottenham. Especially when the decade-and-a-half of the 21st century so far has already seen some noteworthy talents excel at the North London club.

    In going about ranking the 25 greatest of these players, three main criteria have been considered: talent, contributions to Spurs' cause and longevity.

    Naturally, though, the final order is this writer's opinion, and thus there are sure to be disagreements over different aspects of this list.

    If nothing else, this article will hopefully celebrate and remember the men that have helped make Tottenham an entertaining and captivating part of the Premier League era.

Honourable Mentions

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    Hugo Lloris was among those to just miss out on inclusion.
    Hugo Lloris was among those to just miss out on inclusion.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    While the upper placings of this list were easy enough to fill (if not rank), the lower parts have proved tougher.

    Scorers of some crucial goals for Tottenham—Emmanuel Adebayor, Peter Crouch, Gus Poyet and Jonathan Woodgate—miss out.

    Scott Parker's Tottenham Player of the Year-winning campaign in 2011-12 could be argued as being notable enough to warrant inclusion. In this case it was not. His fellow midfielder, Sandro, has not yet put together a season to rank among the very best, though some of his individual performances more than match some who find themselves on this list.

    The Brazilian's current teammate, Hugo Lloris, would probably have got the nod ahead of the goalkeepers included in a year's time.

    This writer would also certainly like to mention such hard workers as Mauricio Taricco and Teemu Tainio, each of whom gave nothing short of 100 percent at the club. Not to mention the valuable experience provided by Brad Friedel and Noureddine Naybet at different points over the last decade.

25. Heurelho Gomes and 24. Paul Robinson

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    Two flawed but, on their day, terrific goalkeepers in Gomes and Robinson.
    Two flawed but, on their day, terrific goalkeepers in Gomes and Robinson.Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

    Heurelho Gomes—whether in feeling he has let his team down or simply being unable to deal with the criticism—has struggled more than most in bouncing back from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that make a goalkeeper's life such hard work.

    Having eventually settled down following his move from PSV Eindhoven, Gomes was instrumental in Tottenham's Champions League qualification in 2009-10. He delivered regular performances frequently marked out by spectacular and important saves, in particular standing firm impressively to seal a memorable (and long-awaited) 2-1 win over Arsenal late in the season.

    This was all the more commendable, considering the effort he had put in with Spurs goalkeeping coach Tony Parks in adapting to English football. Parks helped rid Gomes of his previous eagerness to impose himself on every situation he could, remodeling those instincts into a better understanding of when it was appropriate to leave his six-yard box and when to stay. 

    Gomes' quality was still evident well into 2010-11, with a heroic showing in the 1-0 away win over AC Milan the standout. His failure to overcome a mistake later on in that run in the Champions League was to ultimately proved costly. 

    A shot he let slip in from Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo was not an especially big deal in itself. Spurs were already 4-0 down on aggregate from the first leg in that quarter-final and unlikely to make a comeback. 

    The Brazilian's inability to pick himself up from this disappointment was more worrying, though, as weeks later he slipped up again to concede at Chelsea. The erosion of confidence he suffered here cost Gomes his first-team place, one he has never been able to regain.

    His predecessor, Paul Robinson, went through similar issues, though not as drastically.

    An infamous incident out in Croatia—when a back-pass from his England teammate, Gary Neville, deflected off a divot and over his foot—resulted in the goalkeeper subsequently taking an unwarranted and mean-spirited barracking from the media and fans for a loss that was far from his fault.

    Into 2007, Ledley King's prolonged absences in defence added to a nervousness that—following his England tribulations—Robinson's own air of uncertainty only exacerbated.

    It was testament to Robinson's character then that, despite the inconsistency that had infected his game, he responded to being dropped for the League Cup semifinal in 2008 by making some gritty and necessary saves in a frantic finish to the final weeks later.

    That victory over Chelsea was the culmination of a period in which Robinson had been a major figure in turning Tottenham into one of the Premier League's top-six sides.

    Spurs supporters responded to his heroic efforts and desire for the cause, developing one of the great fan/player relationships of recent times (one that has extended in encounters with the goalkeeper since he left), their chants of "England's No. 1" a frequent and cheering sound during his time at the club.

    Robinson excelled in particular during 2005-06, a year that saw Spurs just narrowly miss out on Champions League football. This time was rewarding after so many years spent toiling in and around mid-table, and for his part in giving Spurs fans genuine hope once again, Robinson is fondly remembered.

23. Mousa Dembele

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    Dembele (center) has taken up where Luka Modric left off at Spurs.
    Dembele (center) has taken up where Luka Modric left off at Spurs.Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Just how good a player Mousa Dembele has been for Tottenham has proved a contentious issue for supporters and outside observers alike.

    Many of those charmed by the skillfully fashioned runs and shots that caught the eye early in his time at Fulham have been aggrieved by the lack of progress in this department at Spurs.

    Perhaps Dembele could chip in with more goals, but this assessment largely overlooks the job he has been required to do in Tottenham's midfield.

    After initially occupying a more attacking role, the injury to Sandro midway through last season saw him drop back to take on more defensive duties. Regardless of whether or not Scott Parker should have instead been the one to step in here, Dembele did near-impeccable work, considering the toll his graft took on him.

    The discipline the Belgian showed here has carried forward this season. Be it with Paulinho or currently Nabil Bentaleb, Dembele's balanced game has helped maintain a sense of solidity in midfield.

    When Luka Modric left in 2012 there was no guarantee Spurs would be able to replace his influence. Dembele is a different player, but he has nonetheless gone a long way to ensuring there is still a classy presence in North London to keep things ticking over nicely.

22. Kyle Walker

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    Leading Spurs' new generation: Kyle Walker.
    Leading Spurs' new generation: Kyle Walker.Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Tottenham's current right-back is still very much a work in progress. If Kyle Walker continues to develop as satisfactorily as he has so far, he could potentially be part of the foundation of the club for years to come.

    After name-making spells away on loan following his original move from Sheffield United, Kyle Walker was handed his chance at Spurs in 2011-12.

    The speedy, aggressive full-back was well at home as part of the entertaining side that excelled for a good two-thirds of that season. Walker in particular combined well with Aaron Lennon in front of him.

    Terrific long-range, match-winning efforts against Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers book-ended that campaign, while his defensive work came along too.

    Last season was tougher for Walker, with opponents making him work harder at both ends of the pitch. Andre Villas-Boas' rotation of his defence did not help, and moments of uncertainty crept into the young England international's game—notably a costly error in the late-season loss to Liverpool.

    This time around Walker is benefiting from a more stabilised defence, while he has also matured individually. He is rarely beaten on his own flank, and when he is, he has increasingly become a reliable last-ditch defender.

21. Simon Davies

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    Davies brought youthful energy to a decidedly older Spurs squad.
    Davies brought youthful energy to a decidedly older Spurs squad.Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

    Along with Ledley King, Simon Davies was one of the few concessions to youth (particularly under Glenn Hoddle) at Tottenham in the early part of the last decade.

    In a team where the chief attacking talent consisted of experienced, big-name players like Darren Anderton, Les Ferdinand, Gus Poyet and Teddy Sheringham, the Welsh winger brought some much-needed zip to the proceedings.

    Ultimately, Davies could never quite be relied on to produce his best on a weekly basis. That much was confirmed from his time with Everton and Fulham.

    However, as he would show later in his career too, when he was hot he was capable of being very good indeed.

    A brace against Stockport County in the League Cup early in 2001 provided the first tangible evidence of his talent. The following season, goals against Bolton Wanderers and Chelsea in the same competition served to underline his increasing importance to Spurs.

    Voted player of the year by the club's members and season-ticket holders in 2002 (back when it was still an annual award), Davies' clever use of the ball brought an extra sense of imagination to Tottenham's attack.

    His last two seasons brought diminishing returns, with Spurs seeking to bring in a better, younger calibre of player in all positions. Davies had more than served his purpose, though.

20. Steed Malbranque

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    The hard-working Steed Malbranque.
    The hard-working Steed Malbranque.Phil Cole/Getty Images

    Steed Malbranque's last game for Tottenham Hotspur was an effectively meaningless 2-0 home loss to Liverpool on the final game of the season.

    You would not have thought so watching Malbranque as he ran himself into the ground like it was a title decider.

    That was the Belgian midfielder in a nutshell—a tireless, dynamic performer who would never give less than his best effort.

    Arriving from London neighbours Fulham in 2006, Malbranque's first season at Spurs was on the whole a good one. Deployed in left midfield, he endeavoured to provide an option for his team as they brought the ball forward

    Not as dangerous with the ball as Aaron Lennon on the other flank, he was nonetheless a player who would snap at the heels off the opposition, keen to sniff out any chance he could, his careful use of the ball often allowing him to make the most of his time in possession.

    As the team struggled early on in 2007-08 amid the rumours surrounding Martin Jol's job, along with Robbie Keane and new signing Gareth Bale, Malbranque was one of the few players to not underwhelm.

    There was always a pride in his performance, a great spirit, one that certainly endeared itself to the White Hart Lane faithful.

    Malbranque was a key contributor to the 2008 League Cup success too.

    He scored in the quarter-final against Manchester City, while his goal was the cherry on top of the 5-1 semifinal win over Arsenal. A typically industrious performance followed too in the subsequent final win over Chelsea.

19. Roman Pavlyuchenko

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    Pavlyuchenko celebrates on a memorable Champions League night against Inter.
    Pavlyuchenko celebrates on a memorable Champions League night against Inter.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Roman Pavlyuchenko and Harry Redknapp never saw eye-to-eye over the best way to use the Russian striker. The infrequency of his appearances made it so an outsider might think he was a failure at Tottenham.

    You only have to look at Pavlyuchenko's contributions during his three-and-a-half-year stay—and the quality of many of them—to see this was not the case.

    The Russia international scored six times as Spurs reached the 2008-09 League Cup final in his first season.

    He scored one less than that in the league, but of those goals, there were some important ones, including in wins against Bolton Wanderers and Liverpool that got Redknapp's reign off to a good start.

    Redknapp inexplicably ignored Pavlyuchenko for the first half of the 2009-10 campaign. Midway through a poor Spurs showing against Leeds United in the FA Cup, the manager granted the loudly voiced wishes of Spurs fans.

    Pavlyuchenko scored in that match, and though Leeds took it to a replay, it marked a turnaround in his season. He netted a further three to help Spurs to that competition's semifinal, while his five Premier League strikes were crucial in maintaining the momentum of their top-four charge.

    Continuing to score in whatever competition he was selected for, Redknapp's punishing of Pavlyuchenko's inconsistencies made little sense, considering he was no worse than Peter Crouch or Jermain Defoe.

    That he was let go in 2011 to be replaced by the inferior Louis Saha (at least at stage of the Frenchman's career) was in keeping with the veteran coach's mistreatment of his talented forward.

18. Benoit Assou-Ekotto

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    Assou-Ekotto (centre) celebrating a rare goal, against Liverpool on opening day in 09-10.
    Assou-Ekotto (centre) celebrating a rare goal, against Liverpool on opening day in 09-10.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Initially drafted into the Tottenham team following his signing in 2006, Benoit Assou-Ekotto succumbed to injury problems that kept him essentially out of contention until 2008.

    One of the smarter decisions of Harry Redknapp's reign as Spurs boss was handing the almost-forgotten left-back a chance to regain his place.

    Over four seasons Assou-Ekotto proved to be one of the club's most reliable performers. A casual relationship with the sport in which he earned his living did not extend to his work on the pitch.

    Assou-Ekotto worked well with the defenders alongside him, and with the winger—particularly Gareth Bale—in front of him.

    Never about personal glory, his work ethic was one designed to fit with his team, helping however he could.

    This came to the fore in mostly diligent defending marked out by largely sound positional sense and good timing in the tackle. Going forward his final ball left a little to be desired, but if nothing else he was on hand to keep an attack going.

    Most of this is written in the past tense as—currently on loan with Queens Park Rangers—the Cameroon international's future with Spurs remains unknown, especially with a new management regime now in charge.

    Despite a comparatively underwhelming season (when he was fit) last time out in 2012-13, Assou-Ekotto has shown already he is not to be written off entirely.

17. Edgar Davids

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    Davids showed the way forward for Spurs' young midfield back between 2005 and 2007.
    Davids showed the way forward for Spurs' young midfield back between 2005 and 2007.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Edgar Davids did not hang around North London as long as most of the others on this list, but he made a contribution to the Tottenham cause that deserves to be well-remembered.

    The Dutchman joined Spurs in 2005 after a less-than-successful spell with Internazionale. That was of little concern to a White Hart Lane faithful who gave him a rousing reception after his introduction during a friendly win over Porto.

    One of Davids' first acts that day was to launch a crunching tackle on the sideline. That trademark ferocity would be a great addition to Spurs that season, providing the grit in central and left midfield that would work well in tandem with the passing and speed provided by Michael Carrick, Jermaine Jenas and Aaron Lennon.

    That trio were among those to benefit from the overall example provided by Davids. In addition to his contributions to the team's energetic style, his determination and resilience would rub off on a young team and its players picking up the habits it would take forward.

    There were occasional downsides to Davids' self-belief. In December '05 he and Keane would have a training-ground bust-up, while a lack of first-team opportunities the following season would see him and his manager Martin Jol disagree.

    But in that 2005-06 season, the Holland international set a tone that would be followed in that campaign and beyond.

    Davids alone could not bring the kind of success he had enjoyed earlier in his career, but he helped give his Tottenham teammates a better chance of doing so.

16. Tom Huddlestone and 15. Michael Carrick

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    Huddlestone and Carrick on England duty.
    Huddlestone and Carrick on England duty.Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Tom Huddlestone left Tottenham last summer, the best part of his final three seasons with the club ravaged by injuries and the consequences of missing so much football.

    Now at Hull City, Huddlestone is beginning to demonstrate the all-round influence on games that was looking like it was truly emerging with Spurs back in 2009-10.

    The centre-midfielder's 33 Premier League starts that year were the most he put together during his White Hart Lane stay.

    Huddlestone's passing was typically precise and deployed with impressive range. There was an extra purpose to it, though, as there was in his more urgent defensive hassling.

    As Spurs earned a long-desired Champions League spot, the young midfielder's burgeoning partnership with Luka Modric looked like one Spurs might truly be able to move forward with. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

    Besides that campaign, the individual games and goals Huddlestone produced made for a fine, albeit inconsistent footballing resume.

    His sweetly struck long-range efforts—including goals against Manchester City in 2006, Bolton Wanders in 2010 and Arsenal in 2011—were testament to a tremendous technique.

    Michael Carrick did not have the eye for a goal that Huddlestone did, but as his predecessor in the Tottenham midfield, he was certainly his equal (if not superior) when it came to passing the ball.

    Signed by then-sporting director Frank Arnesen in 2004, he did not do much for Jacques Santini as a player. Martin Jol was well aware of his talents, though, quickly installing him as the creative fulcrum of his midfield.

    Carrick's duties extended to implementing his reading of the game in making interceptions and gliding in to snuff out opposition attacks. What he could do with the ball going forward, though, was where he really earned his money.

    Notching 12 assists in two seasons with Spurs, Carrick was responsible for instigating so much of Spurs' football. In a 2005-06 season where many stood out, it was he brought everything together so successfully.

    Oft-overlooked for his contributions with Manchester United, Tottenham fans know Spurs might have pushed on even further than they did if the England man had not moved on in 2006.

14. Jermaine Jenas

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    Jermaine Jenas was a fixture of Tottenham's midfield for several years.
    Jermaine Jenas was a fixture of Tottenham's midfield for several years.Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Jermaine Jenas has never quite turned into the truly great, all-round midfield his talent suggested he might have.

    During his time with Tottenham, this was most keenly emphasised by the sporadic frequency with which he went on those long, pacy, gliding runs in which he was capable of moving past players with ease to put himself in great positions.

    Yet if he never quite lived up to that potential, and indeed the hype heaped upon the one-time Young PFA Player of the Year winner, he was still an underrated performer for Spurs.

    A generally tireless worker, Jenas did the jobs that went unnoticed unless looked for. His energy meant he could get around players in midfield, winning the ball off them and breaking up play. If he lost possession, few would seek it back with quite as much hunger as the occasional England international.

    This was evident when he became injured not long into Harry Redknapp's tenure as manager in December 2008, as Spurs lost focus in a spell that threatened to see them dragged back into a relegation fight.

    Prior to that, under Martin Jol, Jenas had provided the legs that allowed the likes of Michael Carrick and Edgar Davids to perform more singularly defined roles.

    Jenas was something of a clutch performer too, turning up in big games when others failed to do so—a trait that seemed to manifest itself most notably in several goals in the North London derby.

    Most notable of these contributions against Arsenal was the 5-1 League Cup semifinal win that secured a place in the 2008 final, in large part thanks to the efforts of Jenas.

    He opened the scoring after only a few minutes, receiving the ball from Dimitar Berbatov before rifling in a fine low shot. It was his free-kick that then proceeded to find its way in off Nicklas Bendtner's head for Spurs' second.

13. Steffen Freund

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    Freund in the midst of battle.
    Freund in the midst of battle.Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Before the likes of Edgar Davids, Didier Zokora and Sandro came to England, one man led the fight to stop Tottenham from being regarded as soft any longer—Steffen Freund.

    That opening sentence would probably have worked better with a Hollywood voiceover, but it is not an exaggeration to say that Freund was instrumental in bringing much needed steel to Tottenham's midfield.

    The club had been home to some fine midfielders over the previous decade. Few, though, were as concerned with stopping opposition teams, winning the ball and imposing his will as Freund was.

    The German made up for a lack of flair and attacking imagination with extra conviction in his tackles, his spirit translating into a cheer-leading role for teammates and fans alike.

    Spurs were a frustrating sight to behold defensively during Freund's time at the club. Even with defenders the calibre of Sol Campbell and Ledley King, solidity was rarely a strong suit of the team's.

    Freund helped to provide at least a semblance of gritty competitiveness to a side whose priorities were decidedly focused elsewhere.

12. Teddy Sheringham

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    Sheringham bids farewell to White Hart Lane back in 2003.
    Sheringham bids farewell to White Hart Lane back in 2003.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    After enjoying success with Manchester United on the domestic and European scene, Teddy Sheringham returned to Tottenham in 2001.

    Glenn Hoddle made him his captain on a team where experience and proven quality would be particularly emphasised.

    The success of this strategy decreased over Sheringham and Hoddle's two-full seasons back at the club. If nothing else, the sight of the England striker scoring for Spurs was one to be enjoyed.

    In his mid-30s by then, Sheringham's trademark combination of smarts and wonderful technique secured his status as one of English football's most renowned practitioners of the beautiful game.

    The veteran scored 13 goals apiece in each of his two campaigns back in North London.

    He was among the scorers in the 5-1 League Cup semifinal defeat of Chelsea in 2002 that broke Spurs' long-held hoodoo against their London rivals. Additionally, he joined the ranks of players to score 100-plus for the club and also moved over 300 for his whole career during this time.

11. Stephen Carr

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    Flying right-back Stephen Carr.
    Flying right-back Stephen Carr.Phil Cole/Getty Images

    Stephen Carr missed the entirety of the 2001-02 campaign as he recovered from a knee injury. The full-back who returned was lacking a little of the vitality that had featured so prominently in his game.

    Yet he was still one of the Premier League's better right-backs even then, which only goes to show just how good he was before.

    And Carr certainly was good.

    The Irishman's engine allowed him to get up and down his flank as he was needed. A highly committed defender, his energy ensured a hard day's work for anyone who crossed his path.

    Spurs were never as solid as George Graham and later Glenn Hoddle would have liked in the early years of the decade. The presence of a tenacious player like Carr at least stopped things from being worse than they were.

    Carr's stamina and acceleration emerging from defence and joining in, or leading his team's attacks, gave Spurs a vital source of width too. He was the ideal full-back in this regard and was capable of contributing moments of brilliance—such as the chipped effort against Sunderland in May 2000 after one typically swift transition.

    The changing face of Tottenham in 2004 saw Carr decide to try his luck with Newcastle United. He blew hot and cold in the North East, but he showed in a late-career spell with Birmingham City that he was a quality professional to the last.

    It was a shame that the Spurs youth product did not see the decade out with the club he started it with.

10. Rafael Van Der Vaart

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    Rafael van der Vaart celebrates scoring against Internazionale in the Champions League.
    Rafael van der Vaart celebrates scoring against Internazionale in the Champions League.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    As Tottenham entered the Champions League in 2010-11, they were looking for a little extra quality and experience to help handle the added burden of playing in the competition.

    Enter Rafael van der Vaart.

    Bought from Real Madrid in the last few hours of the 2010 summer transfer window for a bargain price of £8 million, the Netherlands international would revel in his predominant deep-lying forward role at Spurs.

    Of the 28 goals he scored in his two seasons in the Premier League, several came in some of Spurs' finest moments in recent history.

    Van der Vaart opened the scoring in their first group stage win of the Champions League against FC Twente, and he did so again two games later in the memorable 3-1 defeat of tournament holders Internazionale.

    There were four goals against Arsenal in two wins and a draw against Spurs' North London rivals, including one in 2010 in their first away win against them since 1993.

    At times, van der Vaart could feel like a luxury player—accommodated because of the danger he posed rather than because it suited the team.

    Mostly, though, that threat of a goal, or a combination in the run up to a teammate scoring, ensured he paid back his transfer and then some in in his two years with Spurs.

     

9. Darren Anderton

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    Darren Anderton represented Spurs well into the new century.
    Darren Anderton represented Spurs well into the new century.Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Darren Anderton's issues with injury necessitated he adapt his game to a reality without the exciting running style that had been a trademark of his youth.

    He still had plenty of skill, but by 2000, the emphasis in his game had shifted more to making the most of his almost impeccable passing and delivering from dead-ball situations.

    As Spurs shifted from the era of Campbell and Ginola to Keane, King and (the returning) Sheringham, Anderton's presence was a valuable bridge during the transition.

    His quality in bringing others into the game helped ensure Spurs were nearly always capable of hurting teams, even if a consistency of results eluded them.

    The 2001-02 campaign was perhaps the finest of Anderton's last half-decade with Spurs. He played 45 times as the club showed promise under Glenn Hoddle's management, performing consistently and effectively as the team finished a creditable ninth and reaching the League Cup final.

    Things were not to be under Hoddle for Tottenham. That 2003-04 season was to be Anderton's last too, with him sadly sitting sidelines for its last few months.

    Spurs' cold and slightly tasteless manner in letting him go after over a decade's service was partially corrected a few years later with Anderton's deserved induction into the club's Hall of Fame.

8. Luka Modric

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    Modric was at the heart of Spurs' midfield for four years.
    Modric was at the heart of Spurs' midfield for four years.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Luka Modric was one of the Premier League's shining examples that if you have the talent, your size does not matter.

    At 5'9" and cutting a particularly slight figure, those who had not taken the time to study his game might have written the midfielder off as a lightweight fancy-Dan from the continent.

    While Modric did take time to adjust to the Premier League, that was as much to do with him playing in the uninspired, ramshackle side that was prominent in the last days of Juande Ramos' tenure as manager.

    Under the Spaniard's successor, Harry Redknapp, Modric initially operated a little wider of the action. His influence on proceedings quickly made it apparent that he and Spurs would be better off using him in his preferred centre-midfield position.

    Injury put the Croatian out of action for a few months in his second season, but he returned in the campaign's final few months to help guide Spurs into the Champions League.

    Combined with his willingness to engage opponents in tight quarters, Modric's passing ensured he became the heartbeat of his team's midfield over four years.

    Critics of his game would point to his unremarkable goal and assist tallies as evidence of an ineffectual player. This overlooked that, more often than not, Modric was making the pass that started the move or initiated the momentum that led to several Spurs goals.

    Not as beloved as others on this list, through his acuity and skill, Modric is without doubt up there with the best of them talent-wise.

7. Michael Dawson

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    Dawson is currently Spurs' longest serving player.
    Dawson is currently Spurs' longest serving player.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Often the heartbeat of the club is an unsung hero—in the case of Tottenham it was Michael Dawson. I don't think any English football club can succeed without a player like that at the centre. Brave as a lion, heading the ball off the line one minute, up for a corner and putting his head where it hurts the next—he was a guy that led by example.

    Off the field, too. If there was a hospital visit of a charity function, Michael was always the first to put his hand up. There will always be players with more ability than Michael—the goalscorers, the match-winners—but every manager will know what I mean when I say there was no individual more important to the club.

    Excuse the liberal borrowing from Harry Redknapp's 2013 autobiography, Always Managing. But the ex-Tottenham manager's assessment of Michael Dawson sums up the current skipper's continuing value to the club.

    Leaders are important to any club with ambition, and being in the thick of the action, central defenders often make some of the best. Think John Terry at Chelsea or Vincent Kompany at Manchester City—without whom, both clubs are less solid and far less disciplined.

    Dawson is that to Spurs. You only have to look at the shambles the defence was under Andre Villas-Boas in 2012-13, prior to the centre-back being restored to action.

    Currently Spurs' longest serving player, Dawson had been identified as one of English football's most talented young defenders even prior to his signing from Nottingham Forest in 2005.

    He formed a balanced, understanding partnership with Ledley King and quickly went about fulfilling that promise as Spurs moved up the league table.

    In truth, without King in those early years, Dawson was less assured. Alongside the even-greener Younes Kaboul in the opening months of 2007-08, the Englishman struggled.

    Dawson improved over time, learning from the experience of playing with different defenders. A mark of his progress came in 2009-10 when, after regaining his place in the team following an injury, he began thriving, even without the reassuring presence of King beside him for games at a time.

    Often playing alongside Sebastien Bassong, Dawson played a leading role in keeping Spurs' top four aspirations on track.

    As things stand, no one has yet come through and proved Tottenham are better off without him.

6. Jermain Defoe

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    Defoe celebrating one of his over 140 goals for Spurs.
    Defoe celebrating one of his over 140 goals for Spurs.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Forgive this writer if he does not go into too much detail on Jermain Defoe's Tottenham career.

    His ongoing long goodbye from them ahead of his move to Toronto FC has already had several hundred words dedicated to it. If you want the general overview, check out this look back at the striker's last decade with accompanying pictures.

    Defoe's time at Spurs has not always run smoothly. Yet any player who has earned his way into fifth place in this club's all-time scorers list—with a tally currently standing at 143—deserves recognition as one of this century's best too.

    Among the highlights were the seven he scored after transferring from West Ham United in his first season back in 2003-04, helping his new club escape a potential relegation battle. Then, in 2009-10, his 23 goals helped Spurs to an FA Cup semifinal and—more cheerfully remembered—Champions League qualification.

    That season, Defoe scored five in a 9-1 win over Wigan Athletic. Such scintillating, match-winning feats might have been a little rarer than he liked. Yet it served as an example of how, when Defoe is on-song, there are few better finishers around.

5. Dimitar Berbatov

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    Dimitar Berbatov played his best football in England at Spurs.
    Dimitar Berbatov played his best football in England at Spurs.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    But for the player who follows Dimitar Berbatov on this list, the Bulgarian would definitely be regarded as the most spectacular to have plied his trade for Tottenham this century.

    In two seasons with Spurs, Berbatov scored 45 times and set up a further 28 goals. Several of these contributed to a fifth-place finish in 2006-07, a League Cup win the next year and memorable European runs in both.

    Those tallies are certainly impressive. But watching Berbatov at Spurs was not so much about the statistics, it was about the style.

    After his debut goal against Sheffield United—a tap-in—most of what followed was sublime in its craft and breathtaking in its vision.

    The examples are too myriad to mention, really. As a body of work, it would rival that of just about any striker.

    What was just as captivating about Berbatov was that it was not just about finding the back of the net, it was witnessing the things he could do with the ball in just about any situation.

    Berbatov did not score in the 4-1 defeat of Bolton Wanderers in February 2007, but he was more deserving of that match ball that any hat-trick hero would have been.

    In the way he controlled the pace of that game, holding the play up and dictating it to his will, it was as one observer at White Hart Lane remarked that day, just about as perfect an example of forward play as one could show to an aspiring young player.

    The convoluted circumstances of his departure to Manchester United ended his time at Spurs on a sour note. Yet for Spurs supporters or just admirers of good football in general, those preceding two years had been really quite something.

4. Gareth Bale

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    Bale in front of a White Hart Lane crowd who came to adore him.
    Bale in front of a White Hart Lane crowd who came to adore him.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    As he only left last summer, memories of Gareth Bale are still very fresh at his former club.

    That 2012-13 campaign was arguably the best any Tottenham player has produced in terms of the spectacular, eye-catching moments. Pick out just about any of his 26 goals and you will find a cracker, a beauty or whatever adjective you care to describe it with.

    The shame for Spurs supporters is that they will not see Bale progress further into the peak of a career that well and truly began with that season (not for them anyway).

    There was enough in the years preceding his final flourish as a Lilywhite that his overall time with the club will be regarded fondly. And deservedly so too—save for all that unsavoury diving.

    The winless league run that plagued Bale's early Tottenham career has overshadowed the promise that was clearly there early on. The free-kick in a 3-1 loss to Arsenal back in September 2007 was the most notable sign. There was also an oft-forgotten goal against Middlesbrough that helped kick-start the team's ultimately successful League Cup run.

    Prior to the Champions League displays against Internazionale that caught the attention of the wider footballing world, Bale had helped Spurs get there in the first place.

    With Benoit Assou-Ekotto unavailable at left-back midway through 2009-10, Bale came into deputise. Decent enough in his defensive duties, it was his lung-busting runs forward that caught the eye and persuaded Harry Redknapp to push him into a role in left wing.

    Bale scored in the crucial wins over Arsenal and Chelsea that saw Spurs into fourth and never looked back.

    The quality of the side around him allowed him to develop at his own pace. With each season, his numbers got better and he began to find greater consistency in his performance.

    Arguments could certainly be made that Bale is indeed Spurs' greatest player of the century. Not for a second should his placing at fourth on this list be regarded as a slight on a tremendous talent. One whom, when he was not thinking of creative ways to fall over, was a sight to behold.

3. Aaron Lennon

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    Aaron Lennon on one of his finest nights, in the San Siro in 2011.
    Aaron Lennon on one of his finest nights, in the San Siro in 2011.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Gareth Bale will be regarded by most as a superior winger to former teammate Aaron Lennon. In terms of Tottenham's greatest of the century, though, the latter's length of service more than earns him the higher place here.

    Currently Spurs' second-longest-serving player after Michael Dawson, Lennon benefited initially back in 2005 from an injury suffered by Wayne Routledge. Rather than biding his time to play, he was immediately handed the right midfield spot.

    Lennon's pace and fearlessness rubbed off on the team. Manager Martin Jol encouraged them to use this dangerous outlet as often as possible, knowing the difficulty opposing teams would have defending his devastating attacks from the flank.

    The then-teenage winger had to work harder for openings and to beat full-backs wiser to his game in his second season. He did so successfully, quickly proving he was no flash in the pan.

    An underrated feature of his game that has developed over the years is his willingness and ability to get back and help his full-back. Be it Paul Stalteri back when he first joined or Kyle Walker now, Lennon has always worked well with the player behind him.

    Injuries have halted his momentum at various points in his Spurs stay, a big reason why his statistics are not as impressive as some of the world's best in his position.

    While bigger numbers would have been nice, Lennon has more than made up for it in the near-constant threat he provides.

    At least prior to Bale's emergence (and probably even then), a Spurs side without Lennon was distinctly lacking in the ability to up energy levels and put teams on the back foot.

    That remains the case to this day. Perhaps his pace has diminished by one or two degrees, but there is arguably not a more exciting sight watching Spurs than seeing Lennon in full flow.

2. Robbie Keane

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    Keane in the middle of his old trademark goal celebration.
    Keane in the middle of his old trademark goal celebration.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    In truth, the last few entries on this list could be argued as being interchangeable. Robbie Keane gets the nod for the No. 2 spot for the role he also played in helping Tottenham move into a more youthful and subsequently reinvigorated era.

    Back in August 2002, Keane was a breath of fresh air for the Spurs attack. Mostly partnered with Teddy Sheringham, his eager, varied approach to forward play meshed well with the veteran's guile.

    The bright spot of a season marked by inconsistency, Keane's 13 goals marked the first of six double-figure tallies he would record in his first spell in North London.

    The Irishman remained a key contributor as Spurs gradually moved away from experience to a younger playing staff.

    With new boss Martin Jol's general preference for a big man/little man strike combo, Keane played second fiddle to Jermain Defoe for a time. Over the course of the 2005-06 season, though, his good form supplanted that of his teammate's.

    Spurs' push for European football was sustained by Keane's goals, particularly late in the campaign. A Champions League placed proved elusive, but the club was at least contending with the Premier League's big boys again.

    Over the following two seasons a productive and entertaining partnership with Dimitar Berbatov was formed. Keane's football was at its breathless best alongside the Bulgarian, reaching great heights as Spurs again chased the Champions League, and in 2008, won the League Cup.

    After a six-month spell with Liverpool, Keane returned to help steer Spurs to safety under new manager Harry Redknapp.

    Subsequently, the lack of football coming his way saw Keane take loan spells elsewhere before eventually moving on permanently. Disappointing a conclusion as this was to his time at Tottenham, it did not for a second detract from the excellent work he did first time around.

1. Ledley King

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    King on the ball during the 2008 Carling Cup final.
    King on the ball during the 2008 Carling Cup final.Phil Cole/Getty Images

    "For me, he’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with and without the injuries, I think he could have been the best centre-half in the world."

    There is a lot of "what if" in reflections and discussions of Ledley King's career. The above quote came from Gareth Bale in an article from Tottenham's official website following his ex-teammate's retirement in July 2012.

    It is true, King's career would probably have encompassed even more but for his cruel luck with injuries. That does not detract from what he did achieve with Spurs, though.

    He was the athletic, impressively assured young defender whose potential came to mean that much more when Sol Campbell crossed the North London divide in 2001.

    Learning on the job in different roles under George Graham, Glenn Hoddle and David Pleat, by the middle part of the decade King had developed into an accomplished centre-back.

    Awarded the captaincy, he was an integral part of the team that broke free of mid-table mediocrity, earned a return to Europe and began challenging for a top-four place. His leadership style was one of minimal fuss, backed up by his quality as a player, utilising the careful development of the gifts of speed, awareness and timing he had honed over several years.

    King's issues with injuries became more commonplace at this point, leaving Spurs to do without their best player for games or weeks at a time. Under Harry Redknapp, they finally began to cope without his presence, but mostly, they were better with him.

    That was very much the case in the two significant achievements of the latter half of King's career.

    He marshaled his defence impeccably as Spurs overcame Arsenal and Chelsea in 2008 to win the League Cup. Two years later, he returned from injury to make his contribution to the team qualifying for the Champions League.

    King was a fixture at Tottenham through bad, average and good times. The frequency of his involvement may have diminished over the years, but for a long time, the quality of it never did.

    More than any other individual, Spurs' progression back into a legitimate player in the English game is just about unimaginable without Ledley King.

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