Tottenham defender Assou-Ekotto claims he may move in pursuit of Champions League football
Benoît Assou-Ekotto has plunged his Tottenham future into doubt by claiming he could leave White Hart Lane this summer as part of a gentlemen’s agreement with chairman Daniel Levy.
The left-back had played in every Premier League match until he dislocated a shoulder against Queens Park Rangers last month, but has now suggested that he will try to leave unless the club make more money available for squad investment. With Tottenham's Champions League qualification hanging in the balance, he also provocatively dismissed the Europa League as a “useless” competition.
Assou-Ekotto’s outspoken comments are terribly timed given that Tottenham face a crucial London derby against Fulham on Sunday that could decide whether they play in the Champions League next season. It will also spark further fears of a summer exodus of key players.
“Everything is possible,” said Assou-Ekotto. “When I met my chairman last January, he told me that if a club bigger than Tottenham came for me, the club would not necessarily be against a departure. With my chairman, there was a gentlemen’s agreement. As he is a man of his word, I hope it will make things easier if a great club comes in. If there is a change at Tottenham – some more money is made available maybe – I wouldn’t be against the idea of staying but otherwise I’ll try to move forward as I did when I left Lens.”
The player later issued a statement via Tottenham saying: “I am fully committed to Tottenham Hotspur and proud to represent the club in any match, whatever the competition,” although he did not deny making the comments attributed to him.
Assou-Ekotto’s original remarks, which appeared in France Football, have similarities with claims made last summer by Luka Modric, who said that he had a “gentlemen’s agreement” with Levy when he signed an extension to his contract. Modric wanted to join Chelsea, claiming he had had an “open chat with Levy that if a bigger club came in with a concrete offer we would consider it and agree the best solution for all concerned”. Modric has a contract until 2016 but his immediate future also remains in doubt, with Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, recently admitting that he could not be certain the Croatian would stay.
Gareth Bale has also suggested he would consider his situation if Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League. In ordinary circumstances, Tottenham would secure Champions League qualification if they finish in the top four of the Premier League.Chelsea, though, are guaranteed a place in the Champions League if they beat Bayern Munich in the final of the competition on May 19, meaning Tottenham could finish fourth in the Premier League and still end up in the Europa League.
Assou-Ekotto also outlined the importance of Champions League football. “All players want to play this competition. A few months ago, I said I never wanted to participate in the Europa League, because this competition is useless. If I have to leave Tottenham, it will be to join a club that makes the Champions League. Spain, Italy, Germany, wherever..”
Redknapp has already told Spurs they need to act “boldly” in the transfer market this summer. They are interested in Lille playmaker Eden Hazard, although he appears destined for Manchester City, as well as Ajax centre-back Jan Vertonghen. With a year left on his contract, Vertonghen has urged his club not to price him out of a move to London.
Vertonghen, also an Arsenal target, added: “I trust Ajax and Spurs can turn water into wine and sort it out. It would be terrible if my farewell was marred by Ajax sticking to a great price,” he said. Tottenham are also monitoring Fulham’s Moussa Dembele and Blackburn’s Junior Hoilett.