It remains to be seen as to how much longer William Gallas’ time in English football will last, but in regards to his Tottenham Hotspur career, the end is beginning to look nigh for the Spurs’ colourful Frenchman.
With Andre Villas-Boas’ recent admission that he’s looking to trim down on his current crop of central defenders next season, four into five simply won’t go at White Hart Lane. And when speaking to reporters ahead of the side’s 2-1 over Lyon last week, the Portuguese’s sentiments towards the ex-Arsenal defender seemed glowing in the most ominous of ways.
“William has been a massive player for us this season,” Villas-Boas said.
“Whatever we decide regarding his future, we’ll have to wait and see, but we are aware of what a presence he’s been for us this season.”
It hardly sounds like he’s giving Gallas his last rights as a Spurs player, but the smart money would be on the quartet of Jan Vertonghen, Michael Dawson, Steven Caulker and Younes Kaboul retaining their places in Villas-Boas’ side next season.
But for however you wish to interpret the manager’s recent comments towards Gallas, one thing that it isn’t in any doubt, is his musings about the Frenchman’s contribution to this Spurs side this season. Because while he’s never going to be remembered as one of greats to pull on a white shirt, the professionalism and experience that he’s brought to the club over his two-and-a-half seasons in N17.
Short of scoring a hat-trick against Arsenal, doing a cartwheel in front of the away fans and carrying Arsene Wenger in a wheelbarrow back across the channel, there’s nothing Gallas could or can do to erase the ties he holds with his former club.
Even if those on the red half of North London hold little in the way of affection for him, the 35-year-old’s name is greeted with warm applause at White Hart Lane, but very rarely with anything approaching exuberance. Of course, cheering Gallas on holds no real ignominy, but seldom will you hear a song sung in praise.
Although should Gallas leave at the end of the season, even though nobody will be expecting much in the way of an emotive goodbye, supporters’ shouldn’t let his chequered past undermine what has been extremely effective and often underrated spell with the club.
William Gallas was never brought in to be a mainstay in this Spurs defense, under neither Harry Redknapp nor Andre Villas-Boas. His remit has always been one of steadying the ship through both troubled and also unknown waters.
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When supporters look back at their Champions League adventure during the 2010-11 season, it will always be likes of Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart that illuminate the memories. But Gallas’s contributions remain one of the most understated elements of those wonderful European nights. Was he world-class? No, he wasn’t, but when called upon – most notably against the two ties against AC Milan in the last 16 – Gallas was absolutely magnificent. No fuss, no hassle and most notably, little in the way of any credit. But that’s generally been the theme for much of his Spurs career.
It may or may not come as a surprise to some, but with just over four-and-a-half months left to run on his three-year deal, the former Chelsea defender has racked up 74 appearances in a Spurs shirt so far, which is probably a hell of a lot more than most people would have expected when he signed in 2013.
Which makes some of the critique that he took earlier on this season especially, seem a little startling in its ferocity. There’s no way that Gallas should have made 17 starts for the club this season, but given the horrendous injury problems that have disjointed Villas-Boas’ back-four the fact is that the Frenchman has had to play.
Has he made mistakes? Yes, of course he has and despite his advancing years, some of his defending at times earlier this season has left a lot to be desired. But with the side on the cusp of a Europa League quarter final and four points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal in the Premier League table, Tottenham are enjoying a great season. And Gallas has played his part in that.
And if some of the Spurs support hasn’t appreciated the Frenchman in this side, you only have to listen to those around him to gauge the impact he still maintains in this squad. Steven Caulker spoke glowingly about how Gallas was talking and helping through the now infamous 3-2 victory away to Manchester United back in September.
Jan Vertonghen has been the toast of Tottenham’s defense this season. But according to the big Belgian himself, he already owes a lot to Gallas and how the veteran was treated him as his ‘little brother’ since he broke into the side.
Again, Gallas hasn’t performed at the sort of level for Spurs that we saw at both Chelsea and Arsenal. But this doesn’t mean that he hasn’t still done an excellent job at the club.
He’s never going to receive anything in the way of a standing ovation and supporters are hardly going to be devastated to see him leave the club, giving the talent they now bestow in defense. But if he does leave at the end of the season following another fourth placed finish, supporters would do well to remember the role that William Gallas has played in the successes of the last three years.
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