Sandro Pays World Cup Price with Brazil, but Does He Have a Future at Tottenham?

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Sandro Pays World Cup Price with Brazil, but Does He Have a Future at Tottenham?
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Sandro's injury hit the last couple of years all but cost him a place in Brazil's World Cup squad.

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Sandro's omission from the Brazil World Cup—announced on Tuesday—was not unexpected.

He has not appeared for the 2014 tournament hosts since coming on as a substitute in a 4-0 win over Japan in October 2012. Hopes of impressing returning manager Luiz Felipe Scolari (who replaced Mano Menezes around that time) were soon damaged by a season-ending injury during Tottenham's 0-0 draw with Queens Park Rangers the following January.

Julian Finney/Getty Images
Sandro was part of Brazil's World Cup squad to play in the 2012 Olympic Games held in his professional base of Britain.

Still, as of December last year, Sandro was still hopeful of adding to his 17 caps with the Selecao. Asked what it would mean to play in this summer's World Cup, he told BBC Sport's Ben Smith:

Everything. My friends and my family are in Brazil. If I can play there with the power and support of the people it will be amazing—all of my dreams come true.

At the time, Sandro certainly had reason to be confident in his ability to work his way back into the fold.

Sang Tan/Associated Press
Sandro celebrates scoring in Spurs' 2-2 draw with Manchester United.

The central midfielder was fresh off arguably his best showing of the season in the 2-2 draw with Manchester United—a performance marked by a tremendous 25-yard goal, as well as fine defensive work alongside Mousa Dembele in support of his compatriot Paulinho.

Less effective in the preceding 6-0 loss to Manchester City, Sandro's form heading into winter was steady enough otherwise to suggest he had gotten over the injury which had wrecked 2012-13 for him.

As well as removing him from the national team picture, it disrupted a campaign in which he had asserted himself as a regular starter for the first time in his Spurs career.

Andre Villas-Boas had not rushed him back at the start of this current season and was gradually looking to get the best out of the Brazilian again.

Alastair Grant/Associated Press
In what proved to be his final game of 2013, Sandro tackles his fellow Brazilian, Liverpool attacker Philippe Coutinho.

Sandro's injury in the 5-0 loss to Liverpool, which followed the aforementioned BBC interview, could not have been worse timed. Only one-nil down at the time of his substitution, Spurs suffered without his presence in front of the makeshift defence they had been forced to field.

Individually, it not only halted Sandro's gathering momentum (an undoubted blow to his World Cup chances), his calf and shin problems kept him out until February, denying him the chance to impress Villas-Boas' replacement Tim Sherwood.

The relationship between the two has come to be one of the most interesting—albeit unnecessarily dramatic—facets of Sherwood's divisive tenure as Tottenham boss. An inflammatory interview given by Sandro this week has again fanned the flames:

The initial public spark came about as a result of Sandro declaring he was "not injured" on Twitter prior to last month's win over Fulham. Sherwood responded initially bluntly, telling BT Sport post-match—here via the Daily Express: "I don't think he's good enough to be in the side at the minute, when he shows me he's up to the level of the other players he'll be back in the squad."

Clive Rose/Getty Images
Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood has opted for other players ahead of Sandro of late.

More conciliatory later on, Sherwood expanded on the reasoning for Sandro's absence for the previous five games. He told The Mirror's Darren Lewis he rated him but also stated, "other people are ahead of him," praising the work of Nacer Chadli and Paulinho in midfield.

What is uncertain is where Sherwood's opinion of Sandro dipped to the point he began favouring others in the position.

After returning to full fitness in February, the fan favourite featured for six games in a row. Feeling his way back into things, Sandro was performing decently enough. Despite giving away a stoppage-time penalty in the last-16 Europa League second leg with Benfica, he did commendable work covering in an injury-hit defence alongside the youthful Zeki Fryers.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Sherwood was happy enough with the form of Nacer Chadli (pictured) and Paulinho in midfield to keep selecting them ahead of Sandro and others.

His appearance in last weekend's loss to West Ham United was the first time Sandro had played since then after being excluded from the starting line-up the entire month of April.

Certainly of late, Sherwood has looked for consistency in his midfield selection. Nabil Bentaleb, Chadli and Gylfi Sigurdsson were all kept in for Liverpool away after good games at home to Southampton. As the manager noted following the Fulham win, his happiness with the Belgian and Paulinho's work together kept them in the side.

It still does not account for where Sandro went wrong in his eyes, though. On the bench for the trip to Anfield, his stationing in front of the defence would have been helpful versus the Reds attackers. But no reason had been cited for his initial post-Benfica exclusion, perhaps contributing to the player's frustration.

If Sandro is correct in telling ESPN "Sherwood will leave at the end of the season," it might all matter little soon enough. "Then it's a new coach—a new everything!"

Alastair Grant/Associated Press
Sandro was back in action against West Ham last weekend.

A new manager would at least give due consideration to the defensive midfielder, a player who when fit and focused is one of the best of his type in the Premier League.

Should Sherwood end up staying, he will not dispense with him lightly. A test of his current feelings will be seen in whether or not he selects Sandro against Aston Villa on Sunday. After coming on against West Ham, the man known as "The Beast" (a nickname he has embraced, as demonstrated in his part in Spurs' social media output, as seen below) certainly provided a bite which Spurs had been missing of late.

Either way, with two years left on his contract, the 25-year-old is at a crossroads in his career in north London.

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Sandro shone against Milan in the Champions League in 2011, but injury problems have particularly stopped him from replicating such dominant displays as often as he would have liked since then.

Although he has certainly contributed a number of valuable displays since joining the club in 2010—notably in the two legs against Milan in the Champions League—he has not yet played more than 30 games in a season for Spurs.

The settling-in process and injury problems have been the main reasons for the paucity of Sandro's appearance numbers in his four years in England.

Nonetheless, should the club keep him around—and fitness permitting—he must work to make himself an indispensable part of the Tottenham side. Or risk more professional heartache for club and country.

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