Seville have reached agreement with Tottenham Hotspur to secure the transfer of Didier Zokora. Our first big deal of the summer, it signals the start of the market processes that hopefully will bring a number of quality players to Spurs before the window closes.
The ivory Coast midfielder started 118 games for the club (source: http://www.soccerbase.com) but even a stat-phobe such as myself did not have to look up the number of goals scored. Members of the Spurs Odyssey messageboard (www.spursodyssey.com) ran a sweepstake on which match he would score in first, but I think we all regarded that very much as a donation rather than a bet.
One of the pitfalls of writing regularly on the web (although this blog is new I have written for several years for the excellent fanzine My Eyes Have Seen the Glory www.mehstg.com) is that your predictions and opinions are out there and stay out there. This is in sharp contrast to the TV pundits, who are never held to account for their inconsistencies, or for that matter the many keyboard warriors on the messageboards, whose bluster is trampled under the inexorable march of the next 13 ITK threads. Both use the same method – speak or write firmly with absolute conviction and no one will notice that two weeks previously they had the totally opposite view.
Maybe I should try that in future. Not one for rash predictions, I was nevertheless confident that Zokora was just the man to provide some desperately needed stability in centre midfield. He caught my eye in the last World Cup, an industrious, confident figure in the Ivory Coast midfield, protecting the defence and then picking up the ball to start the attack. He led by example and possessed both the physical strength and stamina that was perfect for the demands of the Premiership. So much so that at the start of the season before last, I predicted he would become our player of the season….
So I waited. And waited. Saw something at the end of Jol’s last full season. Then waited. And waited. Then lost patience. In defence he left too great gap between the midfield and back four, who were then easily exposed by attackers grateful for the unexpected freedom. Coming forward, he never found the strikers consistently and his ball retention was inadequate. Although the old joke about the second touch being a tackle was not created with him in mind, it may as well have been.
Zokora is a decent player who is not up the standards that we need if Spurs are to prosper. His career at the club faded away, named consistently in the squad but seldom a starter once Palacios arrived and shunted ignominiously into defence. He willingly plugged a gap but his shortcomings were exposed away to Villa. Selected ahead of Corluka, Ashley Young slaughtered him, to the point where he was substituted before half time. Corluka then totally contained Young, and at that moment Redknapp surely placed him on the transfer list, at least in his mind.
Yet it feels somewhat churlish to be over-critical of a man who was well-motivated and committed to the team. His celebrations after the CC Final win were genuine and unconfined. The loss of his brother, an equally promising young player at the time, to a dreadful drowning accident, was the source of his dedication, in sharp and welcome contrast to many modern players, lazy and boated on giant bank balances.
I wish him well, as I suspect will most Spurs fans. It is time for him to move on as we need better, but the thought remains: if he could play so magnificently in the last CC Final against United, who couldn’t he have done that more often?