Tottenham Hotspur: 10 Most Skillful Players of the Harry Redknapp Era
Since Harry Redknapp came to Tottenham in October of 2008, the former Portsmouth manager has exceeded expectations and cemented his place among some of the greatest managers to lead the Lilywhites. His 49.3 winning percentage has supplanted the legendary Spurs manager Bill Nicholson as fifth all-time at White Hart Lane.
But it's about players, not plays and Redknapp owes much of his record to the influx of talent he's had the pleasure of managing. Tottenham's youth program is among the best in the world, the club has affiliations with other clubs all over the world (including the San Jose Earthquakes of the MLS and SC Internacional of the Brazilian National League) and they are one of the most popular and profitable clubs in all of England.
We've seen some great players put on the blue and white, but when talking about the greatest Spurs players of all-time, conversations rarely get past the unstoppable squad of the 1970's.
I think Tottenham has attracted some incredibly skilled players, especially since Harry Redknapp has taken over for manager.
With that said, I give you the 10 most skillful players of the Harry Redknapp era.
10. Roman Pavlyuchenko
Roman Pavlyuchenko might be on his way out of White Hart Lane, but while he was here he's provided several memorable runs towards goal.
The tall, athletic striker had far more success at Spartak Moscow (141 appearances, 69 goals) than he did with Tottenham (75 appearances, 20 goals) but with the January transfer window approaching, the Russian import is doing all he can to increase his value, as evidenced in this compilation of goals he's had this season and skills he's used to embarrass defenders (when Redknapp's allowed him on the pitch, that is).
9. Robbie Keane
What would a list about the best players in the Harry Redknapp era be without Robbie Keane?
This is a list for the most skilled players of the Harry Redknapp era and although Keane was one of the most prolific players in Spurs history, scoring 91 goals and earning Player Of The Year honors three times (2003, 2006 and 2008), he wasn't as good under Redknapp as he was under Martin Jol.
He made only 41 of his 238 appearances for Spurs with Redknapp at the helm. But even with reduced skill, he still had some kick in his step during the twilight of his career.
Check out this compilation of Keane's time with Liverpool, Tottenham and on the Irish national team.
7. Ledley King
Skill isn't just unique to guys controlling the ball. Sometimes, it takes the most skill to dispossess an opponent.
Even though he's on his last leg, Ledley King isn't just one of the greatest players under Redknapp. He's one of the greatest Spurs players ever, as evidenced by King's inclusion in The London Times' list of the 50 greatest Tottenham players.
It's amazing to think about how good he could be if he didn't have so many injury problems. He's played at White Hart Lane for the entirety of his 13-year career and earned over 300 caps, even without any cartilage in his knee.
The tackle in the video was from 2006, two years before Redknapp was in charge. But it's an indication of just how good Ledley King was for the first couple of years of Redknapp's taking over at White Hart Lane.
8. Michael Dawson
In the 2009-2010 season Tottenham never once fell farther than seventh in the league table, spending the vast majority of that campaign wrestling with Manchester City for a top-four finish.
It was the greatest season in recent memory for most Spurs fans and center back Michael Dawson was right in the middle of it. He was voted as Player Of The Year for the season—and was the biggest reason why Tottenham only allowed 41 goals—and why goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was kept from looking as bad as he really is.
He was also good for a goal every once in a while, as evidenced by this video.
6. Darren Bent
Darren Bent certainly wasn't one of Tottenham's most capped players, but when Redknapp came to the sinking ship that was White Hart Lane in 2008, Bent proved to be one of the reasons the team was in contention late in the season.
The young forward led the team with 17 goals in 2008, and that was only with 39 appearances. He always hovered around goal and had a knack for staying just inches onside while being in a great position to flick the ball in with very little effort.
Here he is at Sunderland (you Spurs fans need to step up your game on YouTube!).
5. Luka Modric
Luka Modric is a man who's at the top of his game on two of soccer's best teams—Tottenham Hotspur and the Croatia national team.
His home country of Croatia is just two matches against Turkey away from going to the Euro 2012 finals and his weekly salary in club soccer is about to skyrocket from £46,000 a week to £100,000 a week.
The midfielder doesn't get nearly enough credit for just how skilled he is. Last season, his 87% passing accuracy was the best in the league and his leading of possessions is akin to a conductor leading an orchestra.
Here's his screamer against Liverpool earlier in the season.
4. Rafael Van Der Vaart
Versatile in the midfield and a specialist with set pieces, Rafael van der Vaart is what Robbie Keane used to be for Tottenham—someone who can drift back and forth between midfielder and forward and someone who just has a nose for the ball.
Since coming to Tottenham from Real Madrid in 2010, Van der Vaart has scored 22 goals and assisted on 11 more in just 46 appearances. He's already played nearly 400 matches with clubs Ajax, Hamburg, Real Madrid and Tottenham and has another 92 international caps to his name with The Netherlands.
That's a lot of experience for someone who's only 28 years old, but Van der Vaart shows no signs of slowing down, as demonstrated by this demonstration he gave Jack Wilshire in 2010.
3. Gareth Bale
What can you say about Gareth Bale? The left winger from Wales combines skill and speed like very few can. He delivers great crosses and is the best free kick specialist Tottenham has.
In his career at Spurs, he's scored 22 goals and assisted on 18 others in 126 total appearances. He's only 22 years old and he's either scoring a goal or in on another an average of once every three games.
Bale is signed with Tottenham through 2015, but the accompanying video compilation shows why I'd like to see it extended a couple more years come January.
2. Jermain Defoe
As the player on the current roster with the most goals for Tottenham, Jermain Defoe has been a mainstay of skill and quality since coming back for his second spell with the team in 2009.
He's made 96 appearances under Redknapp, scoring 43 goals. He's a quick-thinking striker who is most fruitful when coming off the bench and taking advantage of tired defenders.
Here he is doing just that, scoring what looked to be an easy goal, but turned into a demonstration of will against defender Jose Enrique in Tottenham's 4-0 drubbing over Liverpool on September 18.
1. Aaron Lennon
As an incredibly quick player, Aaron Lennon could possibly be pigeonholed into someone who just offers his team a quick break on the ball and a cross into the middle.
But you'd be sorely mistaken if you think that's all Lennon brings to the pitch. He beats his man with the ball, but then has the skill to do something with it in the penalty box.
It's true that Lennon's calling card is that of a winger who streaks up the sideline and feeds it to one of the forwards (as evidenced by his 57 assists in just over 200 appearances for Tottenham), but that's an incomplete picture as to how complete a player he actually is. He is skilled enough with the ball that he can grab all the attention for himself and then flick it out to a roaming forward who's wide open.
The video was made in the summer of 2011 when rumors were swirling about the left winger going to Liverpool and it's full of such examples.
Peter Crouch (Honorable Mention)
Crouchy was so good at White Hart Lane that he can get teams he's not even playing for into the Champions League.
And so goes the punchline for Crouch's last goal in the blue and white—an own goal in a game against Manchester City that gave Blues the victory and allowed them to coast into this year's Champions League.
But for every joke that Crouch is the butt of, the former England international was one of the best players Spurs fans have ever cheered for (or against, depends on the match). He didn't score very many league goals (only 12 in 73 appearances), but he was masterful in the Champions League campaign during the 2009-2010 season, scoring seven goals in 10 matches.
We can choose to remember Crouchy for his lackluster play in the Premiership and his divisiveness in the Spurs locker room.
But I'd rather remember him for robot dancing and the goal that put Tottenham past AC Milan in the Champions League, which you can watch in the video.