The next few weeks could determine Tottenham’s success for the next few years

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino is yet to win a trophy as manager, the next few games could determine whether he breaks his duck with Spurs or another club.
Updated 02 March 2018

The next few weeks could determine Tottenham’s success for the next few years

LONDON: At the end of January, Tottenham entered a tough run of fixtures. This, it was widely agreed, was make or break. That spell, in which they faced Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Juventus in among their FA Cup fixtures, would define their season. That series of games comes to an end as they face Juventus in the Champions League at Wembley on Wednesday. Where, then, is their season going?
As it turns out, much still depends on Wednesday. Having fallen 2-0 behind inside 10 minutes in Turin, Spurs showed admirable resolve and self-belief as well as technical skill to drag the game back to 2-2, but it will all feel a little anti-climactic if they do not finish the job at Wembley.
In the league, they did all that could be expected of them, winning two and drawing one of those key games: That has propelled them into the top four and prevented them falling adrift in the race for Champions League qualification but that battle, important as it is for the club as they prepare to move into their new stadium, lacks the glamor of a European campaign.
And glamor, perhaps, is what is most necessary for Tottenham right now. With limited resources, Mauricio Pochettino has done a remarkable job but he remains haunted by the jibe that he has never won a trophy as a manager. There is a sense in which it is a meaningless complaint: The clubs he has been in charge of, after all, have been Espanyol, Southampton and Tottenham, none of whom have trophy cabinets that are exactly bulging.
Trophies, anyway, these days, tend not to buy a manager much grace. Claudio Ranieri lasted less than a year at Leicester after leading them to the league title. The three FA Cups Arsenal Wenger has won in the past four years have done little to ease the grumbling around him.
And yet at the same time there is a point lurking blow the surface of the question. What, after all, is it all for if not for silverware? What is the point of professional football if it is not about winning?
There is a disturbing answer, which is that it is for making money for shareholders, but true as that may be, there must at the very least needs to be a dream to sell to fans.
Tottenham also have to sell a dream to players. Their lack of resources is an issue not merely in terms of buying players but for keeping those who are there at the club. Kyle Walker was lured to Manchester City last summer and is reportedly making more than double what he was on at Spurs. As Danny Rose has made clear, the players are well aware of that. It would be no great surprise were he to leave this summer, while the delay over Toby Alderweireld’s contract extension must also be a concern.
Tottenham can, just about, cope with one or two players splintering off each season, but the danger is the exodus for four or five. Harry Kane is the key. At the moment, he seems committed, delighted to be playing for his local club and leading a group of young players to heights the club has not scaled in half a century. But he is still a professional footballer. He cannot reasonably be expected to resist forever the lure of, say, Real Madrid and perhaps quadrupling his salary. As soon as Tottenham wobble, those questions will become all the more pressing. And if Kane goes, it is easy to imagine a host of others following.
That is why Tottenham must always seem to be developing, always progressing toward a better future. At the moment, there is an excitement about them. They are not treading a familiar path but breaking new ground. With the new stadium there is a possibility to establish Spurs among the elite but doing that probably means keeping this squad together (the alternative it to hope the money raised by a sell-off would fund the creation of a squad that could repeat this process in five years or so). And that means Pochettino continuing to spin his magic path. With Manchester City dominant domestically, that probably demands the star dust of Champions League progress.

Good evening, Jeddah! A wave from Neymar for 60,000 Saudi fans

Brazilian footballer Neymar acknowledges cheers from Saudi spectators before the match between Brazil and Argentina at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City. (Reuters)
Updated 17 October 2018

Good evening, Jeddah! A wave from Neymar for 60,000 Saudi fans

  • For many, watching Brazil play Argentina in the “Superclasico de las Americas” was the opportunity of a lifetime
  • I never imagined I would be watching Brazil vs. Argentina in my country: Saudi fan

JEDDAH: Lionel Messi was not there, but Neymar and his Brazilian superstars were — and more than 60,000 Saudi fans loved every minute of their feast of football on Tuesday night at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.

For many, watching Brazil play Argentina in the “Superclasico de las Americas” was the opportunity of a lifetime. 

“I always had a dream to see South American teams abroad, but I never expected a Superclasico to come all the way to my hometown,” said Abdullah Sheikh, 25.

Female fans were full of praise for King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for making this moment happen for them. “I am a football fanatic and was always jealous to see my brother going to football matches,” said Anoud Husseini. 

“After the ban was lifted this year, I went to Al-Ahli vs. Al-Batin, and now I’m at the Superclasico and watching my favorite superstars live. It’s a dream come true for me.”

Bayan Qutub, also from Jeddah, told Arab News: “I never imagined I would be watching Brazil vs. Argentina in my country. Although I am not a diehard football fan, witnessing two giants lock horns in my city is a big thing, and so far it is full of entertainment for me and my family.”

And the match? Brazil won 1-0 — but the real winners were those 60,000 ecstatic football fans.