Tottenham Hotspur partially have Harry Redknapp to thank for the club’s ascendancy over the course of the past decade.
The iconic manager led the club to the League Cup final in 2009, which they lost on penalties to Manchester United, before he twice took Spurs into the top four in 2010 and 2012.
The 2011/12 season proved to be his last in charge of the club, but the legacy of his tenure lives on in north London. His squad was stacked with nostalgic figures and, for some fans, could even be considered the best of the Premier League era.
But how does Redknapp’s 11/12 side compare with the squad Jose Mourinho currently has at his disposal?
Well, with football temporarily on hold due to the global pandemic, it’s a perfect opportunity to reflect on Tottenham’s history and pit Redknapp against Mourinho.
Past vs Present. Redknapp vs Mourinho. Let’s take a look…
A quick scan of the starting line-ups should have Mourinho fearing for the defensive solidity on which much of his footballing philosophy is built.
Gareth Bale vs Serge Aurier down the left hand side is a mismatch of epic proportions. Mr Liability vs Mr Golf Craving Speed Merchant. Taxi for Aurier. The Frenchman is capable of playing the occasional blinder, but history tells us 2012 Bale would have 2020 Aurier in a tangled and dumbfounded mess, incapable of living with the dynamism of his opposite number.
Equally, though, football hating Assou-Ekotto vs Steven Bergwijn offers Mourinho a glimmer of hope in this encounter.
In attack, Harry Kane would fancy his chances against Youness Kaboul while a rampant Emanuel Adebayor – getting the nod over Defoe by virtue of his outstanding return of 17 goals and 11 assists in 33 league games – would relish the opportunity to test Alderweireld’s ageing legs.
A fascinating midfield duel between Giovani Lo Celso and the devilish Luka Modric, finally, offers a true battle of ingenuity and battling spirit.
A throwback to the Redknapp era wouldn’t be complete without a notable mention of Rafael van der Vaart. The diminutive playmaker was a heroic figure on the White Hart Lane terraces, leaving fans in awe of his elusive movement and incisive passing on a consistent basis. There was something enigmatic and insatiably appealing about his style of play, and his left-footed moments of magic leave him as an immortal presence at the club.
Bale and Modric, meanwhile, speak for themselves. That they both joined Real Madrid attests to the level of star quality they injected into the club during a period of time in which they established themselves as a genuine top four contender.
From the current crop Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min stand out as the three biggest stars. When on song, collectively they are a menacing trio to be both feared and respected. Against Redknapp’s relatively weak back-five, the Spurs trio would fancy their chances of combining to goal scoring effect.
This would be a fascinating battle but Redknapp’s side at its pulsating best was difficult to live with. After all, they finished in fourth place during the 11/12 season and Mourinho’s side look set to fall short of Champions League football this time round, ending a run of four straight seasons in the top four for Spurs.
Tottenham’s three highest goal scorers in all competitions this season, Kane, Son and Alli, have contributed a total of 41 goals and 16 assists from 95 games, while the most prolific players in the 11/12 XI, Adebayor, Bale and van der Vaart, contributed 44 goals and 37 assists from 117 appearances.
Evidently, there is not a whole lot to split the two teams in terms of goal contributions from the most creative and deadly players, but it’s the individual battles which would decide the game. One would expect Bale to get the better of Aurier and Modric has the capacity to make Harry Winks look hopelessly mediocre in midfield.
As was so often the case with Spurs under Redknapp, if Ledley King can stay fit, the 11/12 XI should be able to edge the 19/20 outfit in a one-off 90 minute match.