As the transfer window enters its most critical phase, many of the major movers and shakers of the Premier League are yet to get out their cheque books and jump into negotiation for the available talents on offer across the market. Over the weekend, much of the transfer speculation has surrounded Tottenham and one story in particular has caught my eye.
It is not often that a player is made available to English clubs by Spanish giants, Real Madrid, particularly when the player in question is still only 25 and has played for two of England’s biggest clubs in the past.
The man I speak of is non other than Lassana Diarra, the modern day Nicolas Anelka of transfers between the Premier League and La Liga. Diarra’s potential return to these shores has not gone unnoticed, and rumours are circulating that Tottenham’s efforts to sign the midfielder are being tracked by current league leaders, Manchester United.
But do either side actually need Diarra? The Frenchman has shown in the past a reluctance to be involved in big squads, and the inevitable selection rotation that is involved – spending only six months at Arsenal when it became apparent that he was not in Arsene Wenger’s immediate first team plans. Spurs boss, Harry Redknapp is known to be fond of tinkering with his starting XI, so would Diarra be prepared to sit out games he believes he should be involved in?
It must also be pointed out, that Tottenham, already with a surplus of midfielders, look favourites to sign Everton’s want away playmaker, Steven Pienaar, and are hardly lacking in terms of defensive holding players.
In the absence of Owen Hargreaves, Diarra’s proposed move to Old Trafford would make more sense for the impatient former Chelsea utility man. With competition for places not as relentless north of London, there may be a temptation from Diarra to stick with a side guaranteed Champions League football and with more hope of a chance to stake a regular first team berth.
Some Tottenham fans will inevitably argue that a man of Diarra’s class would slot straight into the Spurs’ midfield, and with players like Wilson Palacios and Jermaine Jenas hardly setting White Hart Lane ablaze this season the Frenchman’s unique blend of considerable youth and experience may prove to be a major asset.
Nevertheless, there are other factors to consider. Should Diarra leave Real Madrid with some time remaining on his contract, there is sure to be a hefty transfer fee attached to the one time FA Cup winner, some sources reporting a figure pushing 14 million pounds. Would he be worth the money? Whilst Diarra has had three separate spells with English clubs in the past, his track record is by no means exemplary. In fact it would be fair to say that the diminutive midfielder is conversely, much unproven in this division.
There are questions to be asked about his physicality, and whilst being small need not count against a defensive midfielder of Diarra’s ilk, just ask one time team mate Claude Makelele, there are enough questions to suggest that a big asking price would scare off either side.
I would, however, argue that of the two clubs, Diarra may be best suited to a spell at United. His ability to play at right back may well make him an important figure, particularly with Wes Brown and Gary Neville reportedly heading out of Old Trafford in the summer. Sir Alex Ferguson is often a man to keep his cards close to his chest, however Diarra is an unusual commodity considering his cross continent understanding. Whether the United manager would be prepared to part with a large transfer fee for a man renowned for not seeing his contracts through, however, is another matter.
As always at this stage of the window, such debates are simply conjecture, particularly with Tottenham linked to new players every single day. There is no doubt that Redknapp’s attentions are divided between tying up a deal for the elusive David Beckham, managing his side’s outgoing players as well as chasing down his newest targets. Whilst it appears clear that Diarra will return to England, his ultimate destination is by no means set in stone.