As managerial endorsements go, it was not quite what William Gallas would have been hoping for when Harry Redknapp sought to play down the likely controversy of the defender's journey from Arsenal to Tottenham Hotspur yesterday. "It is not the Yorkshire Ripper I am signing, is it?" Redknapp said. "He is a footballer, he plays football."
The furore that has buzzed around Spurs' acquisition of the former Arsenal captain over the last 24 hours was, according to Redknapp, "all cobblers" but as the details of one of the most surprising signings of the transfer window emerged this week it is obvious that Gallas's arrival is not going to be as smooth as Redknapp might hope.
Gallas will have to start more than 30 games in order to earn himself an automatic one-year extension to his contract, having turned down a two-year deal when his previous contract at Arsenal expired. Redknapp confirmed yesterday that Gallas had agreed a deal with Spurs on less than the £80,000-a-week he originally turned down at Arsenal.
"I'm not saying it was a clever move on his part at the time, financially it wasn't because he hasn't got massive money here," Redknapp said. "He has signed a good contract for a year but we have not thrown loads of money at him because he has not asked for it. He could have got a lot more money elsewhere. He hasn't come here for a big payday because I can promise you that's what he hasn't got at Tottenham.
"He told me he wanted to play. He has taken the hardest challenge of all coming to Tottenham. It hasn't bothered him, he could have said 'No, I don't want to go there, I don't want to do that. They might not like me there, I will go and play somewhere else'. He went: 'No, I want to play at Tottenham'.
"He will come here with a point to prove. If he wanted an easy life he could have gone to Greece or somewhere, for big money, and said 'That's OK, I've done all that.' But he's put himself under real pressure, massive pressure, to come here. You've got to give the man some credit."
The club will allow Gallas two weeks to train and bring himself up to speed before throwing the 33-year-old into the action, which gives him enough time to win Spurs fans over before the trip to the Emirates on 21 November. Redknapp added that Jonathan Woodgate's career was now in the balance, with another operation pending that could be, as he said, the defender's "last chance".
As far as the feelings of Arsenal fans were concerned, Redknapp said that given his experience as a manager who had been on both sides of the rivalry between Portsmouth and Southampton, he felt that that Gallas's trip across north London was comparatively minor.
"Pat Jennings played for Tottenham and Arsenal. Alan Ball played for Southampton and Portsmouth. Mick Channon played for Southampton and Portsmouth. You want to see hatred, that is hatred, between two clubs. I managed both clubs. What's he [Gallas] done [in comparison]?"
While Redknapp's approach has been to make light of the potential upset of taking a former Arsenal captain to Spurs – he said he had no plans to make Gallas captain – he was also forced to confront the issues around Gallas's personality. Not least of these is the player's infamous tantrum at Birmingham City in a game in February 2008. He lost the captaincy later the same year for publicly criticising his team-mates.
Redknapp, in reference to Gallas's subsequent refusal to leave the pitch that day at the end of the game, said: "He could have just walked off the pitch and asked the lads 'Where are we going tonight ... Tramps [the nightclub] or somewhere?' But he didn't, did he? He was distraught at the result, he cares. You need people like him.
"I don't think he is a bad influence. It is a gamble you take. You either do things, either sit back and do nothing or make decisions. That is my decision. The easy thing for me was to do nothing and think: 'Oh, some of the fans might not like him, I am not going to do that, I don't want to upset anybody and we will keep plodding along'.
"People can talk about kids all they want but you don't see kids playing at Man United. United have men: Scholes, Giggs, Ferdinand, Vidic, Neville. They have gone out to win, they want to win. I am not saying you need all older players, but you need people who know how to win matches – and experience you only gain with age.
"Listen, if he plays rubbish, he's going to get slaughtered. But if he comes here, throws himself in, wins headers, we keep clean sheets and Tottenham are winning ... He's a nice man, he's not a bad person, he ain't done anything wrong. He just plays football. He'll go back to France in three years' time and this will be part of his history and Arsenal will be part of his history. It's life, life goes on.
"Patrick Vieira wanted to come here last year. I said 'Are you sure Patrick?' He said 'Yeah, I want to prove I'm a footballer. What am I? I'm a footballer.' Vieira was a legend at Arsenal, more of a legend than William Gallas, let's be honest. Vieira was in the team that were winning everything, 'The Invincibles', or whatever they were called. And he wanted to come here, and would have come here."
Arsène Wenger conceded yesterday that Spurs had signed a "great player" in Gallas and agreed with Redknapp that the defender had demonstrated his will to win with his protests at Birmingham. Wenger said Gallas showed "he is not somebody who comes just to take his money and move away – he wanted really to win".
The Arsenal manager added: "He is not a troublemaker. It's an unjustified reputation. He's somebody that is not always talking, but he does his job. When you're manager you respect Gallas, because the way he responded when I stripped him of his captaincy was absolutely fantastic. He focused, worked hard, and showed on the pitch that he still wanted to win."
The Tottenham manager compared Gallas's arrival to some of his other more controversial signings, including when be brought the controversial Paolo Di Canio from Sheffield Wednesday to West Ham in 1999. "When I took Paolo the papers said that I was walking a tightrope without a safety net underneath, he will cost me my job and this, that and the other.
"He was one of the greatest all-time players for West Ham. That is the chance you take. If you don't, then what can you do? If people don't like it, what can you do? They pay their money, it is up to them. He is playing for Tottenham, you have to get behind him.
"Listen, if Gallas comes out and throws himself into a tackle ... when I was at West Ham we signed David Speedie [formerly of Chelsea] and he was getting dog's abuse when we were trying to get up. There was two minutes to go and if we don't win this game [against Bristol Rovers in 1993] we ain't gonna go up.
"He'd been getting abuse all afternoon from West Ham fans. He dived in and nearly got his head kicked off in the last minute of the game and he put the ball in the back of the net. You thought, 'How about that? After all he's gone through, he's gone and got us promoted'."
Six who crossed The Great Divide
255 appearances and 10 goals
Defected to Spurs' fiercest rivals Arsenal on 3 July 2001 in a move which stunned fans.
Manchester United 2007-2009
63 appearances and 19 goals
Known for his prodigious work ethic during the latter stages of his Old Trafford tenure, Tevez sensationally signed a five-year deal with local rivals Manchester City. He was welcomed to Eastlands with a controversial "Welcome to Manchester" billboard.
172 appearances and 30 goals
After a two-year stint at the Nou Camp, the Portuguese transferred to bitter rivals Real Madrid for £37.2m.
140 appearances and 52 goals
On leaving Celtic the striker spent two seasons with French club Nantes before the self-proclaimed Bhoys fan said he was anxious to return to his former side. He even posed in a green-and-white shirt until Rangers manager Graeme Souness lured him to Ibrox.
At White Hart Lane he won the 1967 FA Cup, the League Cup in 1971 and 1973 and also the Uefa Cup in 1972. However, in 1977 he moved across north London to Arsenal and played for eight years, playing in three FA Cup finals, in 1978, 1979 and 1980.
167 appearances and 49 goals
Another who crossed the Catalan divide. Starred for Barcelona as they won four consecutive league titles under Johan Cruyff. In 1994 the Dane moved to Real Madrid, becoming the first player to win the Spanish league five times in a row with two different clubs (four with Barca, one with Real).Reuse content