Tottenham defender William Gallas is now in the middle of his tenth season as a Premier League defender, a long period of time for any player to consistently perform in the top flight it has to be said, which leaves me with the thought – does Gallas receive the plaudits that he so richly deserves?
Gallas signed for Chelsea back in 2001 for £6.2m from Marseille as a young, pacy centre back with raw potential. Over the years his game has developed and he’s proved to be one of the league’s most consistent defenders of the last decade. When talking about the best defenders to have graced the Premier League over the past decade or so, Gallas is rarely, if ever, mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Ferdinand, Carragher, Vidic, Hyypia and Campbell, which I find somewhat puzzling.
Part of the problem when discussing the merits of William Gallas as a player is that it inevitably leads to questions on Gallas the person, something which has proved to be his downfall over the years. The perceived lack of loyalty he has shown to his former clubs over the years has gone a long way to courting negative headlines, something which live longer in the memory than his exploits on the pitch rather unfortunately do.
He left Chelsea under a cloud back in 2005, with the West London club even issuing a statement saying that Gallas threatened to score own goals unless allowed to depart for Arsenal. It was a sad way to end a 5-year spell at the club, during which he became praised for his versatility, calmness when in possession and pace, as he became a vital ingredient to Chelsea’s back-to-back title winning sides.
His controversial move to Arsenal saw him eventually rewarded with the captain’s armband in 2007 after Thierry Henry’s departure to Barcelona, ahead of the likes of Gilberto Silva and Kolo Toure.
But yet again, after the horrific leg break suffered by Eduardo away at Birmingham, Gallas was criticised for his petulant behaviour and refusal to leave the pitch at full-time after a late Birmingham equaliser left the player deflated, emotional and lost for words. Most observers thought that this sort of behaviour simply wasn’t befitting of an Arsenal captain and Gallas lost the captaincy the following season after revealing tensions within the Arsenal squad to the media, while also simultaneously criticising the hunger of some of the squad’s younger players.
Gallas was also sighted as a motivating factor behind Kolo Toure’s move to Man City in 2009, with the Ivory Coast defender later divulging that the pair were barely on speaking terms. It appeared that instead of uniting the dressing room, Gallas was playing a pivotal part in dividing it.
Injuries played their part as he wound down his time at Arsenal and amid rumours that the player was thought to be demanding £80,000 a-week in a proposed new two-year deal; a ludicrous sum of money for an injury-prone 32 year old defender, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger allowed him to depart on a free transfer at the end of last season.
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp then snapped him up, describing the move as a “no brainer” and during his time at White Hart Lane so far, Gallas has proved to be an astute signing, forming a solid partnership at the heart of the Spurs defence alongside Michael Dawson.
He’s also gone some way to displaying the leadership qualities that saw Arsene Wenger place so much faith in him during his captaincy spell at Arsenal. With the other centre-halves in the Spurs first-team ravaged by injury for much of the campaign, Gallas has been involved in 20 of the club’s 28 league fixtures, with his fitness proving a valuable asset to Harry Redknapp in times of need.
Controversy always seems to lurk just around the corner with Gallas though, such is the tempestuous nature inherent in his personality, and were it not for these public fallings out, he’d surely be regarded in much higher esteem among his peers than he already is now.
In 280 league games in the Premier League Gallas has scored an extremely helpful total of 24 goals. He’s quick, decent in the air and fantastic on the recovery, not to mention his reliable distribution skills. Gallas is often overlooked for praise by most, which is a shame; he’s been a fantastic servant to the English game, if not the clubs that he has played for.
He remains a divisive figure, of that there can be no doubt, but the Frenchman is often overlooked when it comes to the debate about the greatest centre-halves to have graced the Premier League over the course of the last decade. A questionable character, most definitely; but a questionable player – not a chance.