Davids inspires Tottenham's imagination with the winning mentality of a volatile maverick
The man they call 'the Pitbull' is relishing the challenge of the Premiership. Sam Wallace assesses Spurs' new signing
Thursday 04 August 2005
In defence of Davids, whose most infamous differences have come with Guus Hiddink at Euro 1996 and, more recently, Roberto Mancini at Inter, Jol said that he himself had a worse reputation as a player than the man who takes his nickname "the Pitbull" seriously. "I'm glad you didn't check my playing career," Jol said when challenged on the temperament of his new acquisition. "I had more problems than he ever did."
Jol will not be able to afford a rift with one of the few experienced players in his youthful squad who could offer some leadership this season but then for a salary understood to be around £47,000 a week, as well as a signing-on fee of more than £1m, he will also expect some loyalty. Davids has fallen out with some of the best in the business but his introduction at White Hart Lane suggested that this was a man who will more than hold his own in the volatile world of the Premiership.
Asked whether he was - as has been reported - a boyhood Tottenham fan, Davids shrugged "yes, but every player says that, don't they?" He had signed for two years and it was the longer contract, rather than the one-year deal that Tottenham first proposed, that has delayed his move up until now. "Just some small lawyers' points," Davids said, but there was not believed to be too much serious competition for his signature.
On the dominance of Chelsea he was nonplussed, "they had an outstanding season but every season is different so we will see". However, on Arsenal there was a warning. "Wenger is a very intelligent man and I was lucky enough to meet him and talk with him," Davids said. "It was a private chat, not about transfers, but I know for sure he has a plan and if he let Patrick Vieira go that means we have to start worrying."
The twilight of a career that began with three Dutch titles at Ajax in the mid-Nineties and has taken in four Champions' League finals and spells with Milan, Juventus, Barcelona and Inter is likely to be one of the most compelling subplots to the Premiership this season. Davids said that the Premiership had the "best midfielders in the world" but refused to single anyone out for individual plaudits and insisted that despite his advancing years he would have no problem handling a 38-game season.
"I had seven years with Juventus and I experienced Spanish football and I thought the time was right to go to England," he said. "There were a couple of other clubs interested but I spoke to the manager here and I had a great feeling about the place. I hope I can bring some good energy into the team because they are certainly very talented and I hope we have a great adventure together.
"It's not for me to judge whether I am 'the Pitbull' or not but I think I offer more than that. I think that every week here is a challenge and teams from the top and bottom of the league can beat each other. When clubs want you it's important to meet the personalities and talk to them. You have to know that the person is talented and that they have a vision."
By that he meant Jol but he has been less complimentary in the past, especially about Hiddink, when he walked out of the Dutch camp in Euro 1996. Davids is also not believed to be any great friend of Ruud van Nistelrooy and his relationship with Inter had deteriorated to the point that the Italian club were prepared to pay him off this summer to be rid of him.
Jol admitted that he had not signed a "Paul Gascoigne or a Johan Cruyff" but that Davids would give his team the "winning mentality and physical presence we lacked last season". "When I talked about needing a player to give us that I was talking about Edgar Davids," he said. "He can win a ball, his distribution is great and his fitness level is second to none - Edgar is a leader by example."
In the same room that bears Tottenham's international role of honour - from Greaves and Perryman to King and Defoe - Davids said that he still believed he could re-start an international career that currently stands at 73 caps. A glaucoma sufferer, he will wear the specialist goggles that protect his eyes - the condition damages the optic nerve and Davids requires a reduction in direct glare on the pupils. He was also banned for four months in 2001 for testing positive for nandrolone.
Davids is Jol's first signing independent of the former technical director Frank Arnesen, and he is certainly an interesting and brave choice. There were 24 players brought to White Hart Lane over Arnesen's brief reign but none has quite caught the imagination like Davids.
For the Surinam-born midfielder, this is the slow march to retirement, although there is no sign that he will go quietly.
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