Earlier this summer Liverpool managed to leapfrog Tottenham to the signing of England international Joe Cole, snatching him from right under the nose of avid admirer Harry Redknapp. One-nil to the Reds you might say, as they look to reclaim there position in the top four this season.
It was Redknapp’s Spurs who replaced them as one of the league’s elite members club, after an impressive campaign and 70 points last term. Many Tottenham fans viewed their Champions League qualification success as the platform to attract the first-class players needed to transform them into regular title challengers. Yet Cole’s decision to sign for the Anfield club and Spurs’ subsequent frustrations in the transfer market left many fans feeling like an opportunity had been lost.
Yet at the last minute Spurs defied all expectation by landing Holland international Rafael van der Vaart from Real Madrid, delivering the marquee signing demanded so feverishly by the White Hart Lane faithful. Van der Vaart immediately endeared himself to his new North London neighbours by claiming that he had snubbed the advances of Liverpool to join Redknapp’s revolution at Tottenham.
Van der Vaart told Sky Sports News: “Liverpool were interested. Bayern were not interested.
“In the end you have to have a good feeling, and with this manager I got a good feeling. I am happy and I am going to Spurs.”
Yet you have to wonder how much of Van der Vaart’s opening reflections are a real representation of the truth. The Reds had of course enquired about the availability of the Dutch maestro when in negotiations with Real Madrid over the sale of Xabi Alonso last summer and you would imagine the Spanish side would have been keen to involve VDV in a deal. Liverpool were not the only side linked to the playmaker however. Redknapp claimed Bayern Munich were set to complete an £18m deal for VDV just before the transfer deadline, something which was dismissed outright by the player himself just a couple of days later.
Liverpool may have been interested in his signature at one stage but it is unlikely they were still actively chasing a deal and competing with Spurs for his signature in the final few hours of transfer window activity. It is more likely Roy Hodgson had looked into a potential deal earlier in the window before deciding to explore other options. Of course, if the claim is a truthful one then VDV would have struggled to choose a club who finish seventh last season over one which boasts Champions League football, stability, Big Ben and an even bigger transfer and wage budget.
VDV however does not explicitly say an offer from Liverpool was definitely on the table, more specifically stating that they were ‘interested’. Hodgson had already made the final additions to his midfield engine room, replacing both Alberto Aquilani and Argentine captain Javier Mascherano with Juventus’ Christian Poulsen and cultured Portuguese midfielder Raul Merieles from Porto. It would have been difficult to accommodate VDV into a team already boasting the talents of five international central midfielders. More specifically, two players who like to play as the central point of a midfield diamond in captain Steven Gerrard and Cole.
It is easy to see why Van der Vaart’s decision has been used to emphasise Liverpool’s decline and Tottenham’s emergence, yet that maybe too simple a notion. Cole signed for a club who have qualified for Europe’s elite competition eight times in the last ten years and won the competition itself five times. Spurs on the other hand last played in the European Cup 48 years ago.
Liverpool are not a spent force just yet, although should Van der Vaart help inspire Spurs to another sublime campaign this season then he could inflict more damage on one of the league’s most endangered sides.
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