Thursday 19 October 2017

'Fantasy football' adds to Redknapp's £26m price tag

TOTTENHAM 5 NEWCASTLE UTD 0

Jason Burt

For a man who won the Champions League and two Premier League titles with Manchester United to declare that the 67 minutes he had just played for his new club equated to "fantasy football" and the "quickest football that I've ever played" was some statement.

But then Louis Saha had just scored two goals on his Tottenham debut, released from the frustration he felt at Everton by a deadline-day free transfer, in the kind of exhilarating performance that re-affirmed the enduring belief that this is actually a three-horse race for the league title.

Newcastle were destroyed. Shorn of three-quarters of their first-choice midfield, they simply could not cope and the fears of manager Alan Pardew that his team were playing not just Spurs but the occasion -- Harry Redknapp's acquittal and the euphoria around him and England -- proved all too accurate.

"I knew we would get a reaction from fans and players," Pardew said. "He must have been sitting in the dug-out thinking he's had the week of his life. But I can only think of my players because we've been thumped."

Thumped is the right word. Newcastle were left reeling by a quick-fire combination. Spurs were like a boxer going straight for the knock-out from the bell. Jab after jab, blow after blow.

Spurs can genuinely aim higher and the signing of Saha is a typical piece of Redknapp business, handled in typical fashion.

"When a manager calls you and says: 'I really believe in you' then you can't say anything but he's great," Saha said, echoing the kind of conversation Redknapp has had with numerous players whose careers appeared to be dwindling.

"He gets the best out of players," Saha added. "For me, it feels like a great opportunity to work with a really talented manager."

Saha formed an instant, awesome partnership with Emmanuel Adebayor and the contest was over inside six minutes. First, Adebayor burst forward and crossed for Benoit Assou-Ekotto to strike first-time and then he centred the ball for Saha to steer it beyond Tim Krul.

Two more goals came quickly, with Adebayor teeing up Saha to drive home the third before Niko Kranjcar swept home number four. Adebayor added the fifth with the sweetest of finishes.

"As a kid, you always dreamed of playing fantasy football, attacking football and you've seen that here," Saha said, and nobody could disagree. "To be part of that is just a pleasure."

It was a pleasure for Redknapp too and Pardew added: "I think Harry's got a tough decision because this isn't a team you want to walk away from."

If Redknapp (left) were to take the England job, one of his first tasks would be to convince Paul Scholes to end his international retirement.

Stressing that he was speaking hypothetically, Redknapp said: "Let's be honest, you would love to have Paul Scholes in your team for the Euros.

"Whoever's there (as manager) would love to take him, I'm sure. You'd love him to play. He plays like the Spaniards, like Xavi, or Iniesta -- he does not give the ball away."

Appointing Redknapp as England manager would cost the FA close to £26m. Redknapp, it is believed, would want an annual salary of around £4m, plus bonuses, while Spurs would expect to receive around £10m in compensation.

It is understood that Redknapp is interested in the England job only on a permanent basis, ideally, with a three- to four-year contract. He would also like to be able to see out the present campaign as manager of Spurs. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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