Selling Bale would cripple us - Redknapp
A day that began with Gareth Bale unhelpfully hinting that he would give serious consideration to leaving Tottenham and moving abroad ended with Harry Redknapp warning that if this was allowed to happen the club would be in danger of sliding back into mid-table mediocrity -- rather than shooting for the stars in the Champions League and "keeping the dream alive".
This was not ideal territory ahead of a quarter-final tie against the nine-time winners of this competition, Real Madrid, who are led by a certain Jose Mourinho, but there was a hard edge to Redknapp yesterday which perhaps betrayed a growing tension within Spurs over whether he has taken the club as far as he can without significant new resources.
It was, as ever, mixed with humour but there were no punches pulled over a player who has come to symbolise this campaign after his feats against Inter Milan. "Once you start selling one then I think the other lads... (also get unsettled)," Redknapp said, adding: "It sends out the wrong signals."
He would, he added, expect the likes of Luka Modric to also ask to leave should Bale go and suddenly Spurs would be in danger of deteriorating.
"Once you start selling off your prized assets (it becomes difficult)," Redknapp said. "I had it at West Ham (his former club). We let Rio (Ferdinand) and Frank (Lampard) go and the rest followed.
"If you are looking to build a club, you can't be selling Gareth as then Modric wants to go and someone else wants to go. Then you end up where they were four to five years ago, finishing halfway up the table each year."
Bale's thoughts, innocuous enough in a sense, were revealed in the Spanish newspaper 'AS', with the player saying: "If a great opportunity arises then you need to seriously consider it."
Redknapp agreed, albeit with a swipe at "agents who turn players' heads", that the Welshman, still just 21, would perhaps one day be best served with a spell overseas but added that having signed a new contract it was not the time or place to broach the subject.
"The day that he comes in and says that he wants to go, or the agent says that he wants to move, there is very little you can do about it," Redknapp said. "But I don't see that happening. He's not Billy Big Time at all."
In fairness there is also no suggestion that Spurs want to sell their prize asset. But if Bale did leave, what kind of fee would it take?
"Man United sold Ronaldo but they got an offer of £80m. He's Portuguese and this is more his lifestyle here than Manchester may have been. So in the end it was good business. But we wouldn't want to sell a player like Gareth Bale at this time, when we're trying to build the club," Redknapp added.
So would it take £80m? "I'm sure it would have to be," Redknapp said. "It would be an amazing figure if you ever sold him. But how do you replace a player like that? It's very difficult."
Difficulties do, nevertheless, exist. Interestingly, Redknapp was asked whether he felt the club's board appreciated what he had achieved. "If they have got any brains, they do," he said rather bluntly. "If they haven't then they won't."
Securing fourth place in the Premier League and qualifying for this competition was special, he added, and may happen again. Going further is daunting. "Getting into the top four is so difficult. When have Tottenham ever finished above Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United?" he said.
"I must have missed it. I don't remember them doing it. If Manchester City finish outside the top four having spent £140m last summer then there is something wrong, I don't know whether people appreciate me or not. I really don't care. All I need to know is whether the job I do is a good one."
In a sense he sounded more like Mourinho than Mourinho with that outburst and there is a genuine mutual admiration between the pair, with Redknapp hailing his opponent's "amazing record" while dismissing any notion that it was a personal duel as well as suggestions that Ronaldo might not play.
"He's a certainty," Redknapp stated before adding: "Real Madrid are one of the great clubs of world football. Maybe they are the favourites but there is a confidence that we can do the job."
That confidence has been boosted with the knowledge that Bale is fit while William Gallas will be patched up and pushed out for a match which Spurs may go into with just six substitutes rather than the permitted seven because of a crippling injury list.
Steven Pienaar, who has not travelled because of a groin complaint, and Niko Kranjcar, with a sore foot, are the latest to drop out. Defensive options, in particular, are depleted.
"This will be our most difficult game so far," the manager said. "Whoever wins the Champions League will have to beat the two Spanish teams."
Is he therefore suggesting Spurs can do it -- after all, they could face Barcelona in the semi-final? "I don't feel any pressure," Redknapp added. "No one expected us to be here and to have come so far in this competition.
"We had to come through a qualifying round and the most difficult group and then the knockout (against AC Milan). We have to play well and not just turn up. We want to keep progressing and the dream is still there for us all and we want to make that dream come true. There is still a chance. We have to make sure we take it." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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