As Spurs desperately tried to claw back their fading hopes of third place towards the tail end of last season, you would be hard pressed to pick out too many positives. But beneath the gloom and depression that Tottenham’s fate ultimately lured over White Hart Lane, there was one colourful figure that gave a timely reminder that the future isn’t written off just yet. There is a lot of talk that Sandro is the future of Harry Redknapp’s midfield. Forget that- the Brazilian needs to be the present.
It’d be fair to say that the 23-year-old defensive midfielder’s Spurs career is yet to really kick into gear. When the Brazilian first landed in England following his bargain £6.5million move from Internacional, it understandably took him time to adjust to the rigours of English football. A home debut in the 4-1 home defeat against North London rivals Arsenal in the League Cup had more than a touch of a baptism of fire and a well needed run of games was difficult to come by. Indeed, the now infamous incident that saw him turn up at Stansted to fly out for the Werder Bremen game, only to be told he wasn’t in Redknapp’s initial European squad, left the Brazilian, “really disappointed.”
But the dawn of 2011 saw Sandro’s luck change. The big watershed moment was his performance against Milan in the Champions League over two-legs. His relentless stamina, precision tackling and continuous haranguing of an esteemed Rossoneri midfield, saw Spurs fans, and the rest of Europe take notice. But it wasn’t just the display of defensive discipline and concentration that caught the eye. It was the touch of class and the effective distribution. Unlike so many Premier League ‘water-carriers’ who often seem to have a deficiency on the ball to compensate for being adept off of it, Sandro has both. It was now time to apply himself in the bread and butter of the Premier League.
And since then, the Brazilian has kicked on and impressed, even if he may not have completely solidified himself in the first XI at White Hart Lane. A superb, stinging 35-yard volley away at Chelsea, galvanized a decent run of games that showcased his defensive skills, even if he remained slightly inconsistent towards the end of his debut season.
But as so many foreign players do, Sandro hasn’t been riddled with it, but he most certainly had the symptoms of ‘second-season syndrome’. In parallel to Javier Hernandez’ fate at Manchester United, both had impressive showings in their debut season, but really needed a strong start and run of games in the season just gone. Injury bit both and as we’ve seen so many times, its always so, so difficult to regain match fitness through 20minute cameos. And in Sandro’s case, the looming figure of Scott Parker has proved a huge stumbling block.
This is where there is a sticking point for Harry Redknapp and Spurs. No one can deny the influence that Scott Parker, Sandro’s chief rival for a spot in the team, has had on Spurs this season. The England man was instrumental in their superb run that nearly took Tottenham to the Premier League summit and the fans have backed him to the hilt, voting him the members’ player of the season. But at 31, the ex-West Ham man isn’t getting any younger and as Spurs came off the boil, Parker began to show signs of fatigue which perhaps could have been avoided had Redknapp had more faith in Sandro. Everyone loves a local boy come good and it’s been refreshing to see Jake Livermore given game time. But this shouldn’t be at Sandro’s expense. The Brazilian is technically superior to both Parker and Livermore, but he is only going to succeed Parker if he is given game time. And that is what has to happen next season.
It is foolish to begin criticizing someone who, as previously mentioned, was voted player of the year and is set to start for England in the European Championships. But let’s not forget, Sandro has also been commanding a similar position in a far superior national team. Described by former national boss and defensive legend Dunga as a ‘future captain,’ Sandro has all the tools to succeed both internationally and in the Premier League. At face value it defies logic, but whilst Scott Parker is currently the better Premier League player, Sandro is the better footballer. If Redknapp altered formation to a 4-2-3-1 then both can co-exist with each other, but that doesn’t look particularly likely to happen at the moment.
But the only way Sandro is going to develop into the sort of player he most definitely has the potential to become, is through cold, hard, playing time. When Parker fell victim to an Achilles injury, Sandro was arguably Tottenham’s best player during their last four games. He ran the games against Blackburn and Bolton and gave everything for the shirt against Villa, even winning the subsequent penalty. He may not be as solid or rigid as Parker, but he showed a real dynamism in those final games and looked as if he didn’t want the season to end. He deserves the chance to find that sort of flow and form again next season.
Scott Parker is a superb player and fitness permitting, is likely to start from the off for Spurs next season. But if Redknapp is indeed still manager, he cannot afford to keep playing the 31-year-old for the sake of playing him. Especially not when there is player of the caliber of Sandro warming the bench. It’s a difficult decision to make. But Scott Parker isn’t getting younger and Sandro’s list of suitors definitely isn’t getting any shorter either.
Do you buy the Sandro hype? Would you rather Scotty P played on till his legs fell off? Or can you fit them both in the starting line-up? Tell me and follow me on Twitter for all things Spurs @samuel_antrobus