Ossie Ardiles is, quite rightly, a legend of the English game. The likeable Argentinean joined Spurs just days after winning the World Cup with Argentina in 1978.
The story of Ardiles' signing was revealed by Nick Harris in his superb book, the Foreign Revolution, and it illustrates how luck played its part in Spurs signing the Argentinean No. 1. Fun fact: Ardilles wore the No. 1 jersey for Argentina at the World Cup in 1978 in one of the few occasions for an outfield player to don the traditional goalkeeper's number.
Keith Burkinshaw, the manager of Tottenham Hotspur, was sitting in his office at White Hart Lane a few days after the 1978 World Cup final. He had less than two months to prepare for the start of the new season. Spurs were returning to the First Division after a year away.
Extract from the Foreign Revolution:
Bill Nicholson, Burkinshaw’s most eminent predecessor, the man who’d overseen Spurs' glory days of the early 1960s, had joined him for a chat. There was plenty to discuss.
While they were talking, the phone rang. Nicholson answered it.
“Hello Bill, it’s Harry Haslam.”
Haslam, a friend of Burkinshaw, was the manager of Sheffield United.
“Hello Harry, what can we do for you?” asked Nicholson.
“Would Keith be interested in signing Osvaldo Ardiles?” said Haslam.
Nicholson turned around to Burkinshaw.
“Harry Haslam’s on the phone and he wants to know if you’re interested in signing Osvaldo Ardiles,” he said.
“Is he pulling your leg or what?” said Burkinshaw.
A couple of days later, Ardiles and his friend, Ricky Villa, also an Argentinean World Cup winner, joined Spurs for a combined fee of £750,000 in one of the biggest transfer coups of all-time.
Ardiles went on to play for Spurs for 10 years and made over 250 appearances for Spurs.
Graeme Souness told a wonderful story about Ardiles' debut for Spurs, a 7-0 defeat to Liverpool, while working as an analyst for Irish broadcaster RTE during the World Cup in 2010.
Spurs had endured a torrid start to the campaign while Liverpool sat on top of the table, well on their way to their 11th league title. Ardiles and Villa were put into the team by Burkinshaw to lift confidence and Liverpool wanted to give the two foreign lads a traditional welcome to England.
Souness, marking the slight-of-frame Ardiles in midfield, wanted to leave his mark on the Argentinean and absolutely buried the Spurs man with his first meaningful tackle of the game. Souness was one of the hardest men in football at the time and was absolutely staggered when Ardiles just brushed off the tackle as if it were nothing.
The Scot laughed at the end result, 7-0, but he knew he had come up against a real star that day and Ardiles' attitude and ability shone through over the next 10 years.
1982 was to prove a very difficult year for Ossie as Argentina invaded Islas Malvinas, the Falklands Islands, and England, his adopted country, went to war with his home country. In Argentina, he was viewed as a traitor for living in England and, in England, he was viewed as a traitor for being Argentinean.
Spurs let their star midfielder go on loan to FC Paris Saint-Germain for the 1982-83 season. ESPN made a documentary about Ardiles and Villa's time at Spurs during this period entitled White, Blue and White.
Ardiles went on to manage Spurs, but was less successful. Let's remember him for the playing legend he was and always will be.