Redknapp saving King to reign in Europe

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He played barely half of last season and, as many predicted, broke down at the World Cup for England. But Ledley King will once again be patched up and sent into battle when Tottenham Hotspur begin an important season in a fortnight's time.

The Spurs manager Harry Redknapp could have been forgiven for putting an arm around King during the summer and telling the club's most loyal servant that his time was finally up. Time to give way, perhaps, to someone who could be relied upon to play whenever needed.

However, Redknapp did not even consider this, which speaks volumes about the value of King. Redknapp admitted on Thursday night that the Spurs captain will have to be used sparingly. And, if he plays in Tottenham's Premier League opener against Manchester City, he won't be part of the club's Champions' League debut a few days later. Or vice versa.

With Jonathan Woodgate certain to be omitted from Redknapp's 25-man Premier League squad, King is vital to the cause even if Spurs are forced to chop and change according to their captain's level of fitness.

His manager says that Spurs cannot afford to go into the season without him. "The truth is, Ledley is such a good player for us," said Redknapp. "Hopefully he'll play every week in the League – or in Europe. I might bring a defender in, but we need Ledley fit. He's that good for us. He is our most outstanding player and there is no way we can be without him."

Redknapp hinted that the priority would be Europe, with King rested for Saturday League games either side of the Champions' League should Spurs qualify for the group stages. "He will be massive for us in Europe. He's going to be a big player. He is as good as any centre-half in the country."

Redknapp's support for King was in contrast to his assessment of the midfielder Giovani dos Santos. Despite being farmed out on loan last season, the Mexican was one of the players of the World Cup.

He was Tottenham's main threat in last week's 4-1 pre-season defeat to Villarreal and could save the club a lot of money in the transfer market. But Redknapp has doubts about the player. "If he gets his head right and works hard he has outstanding ability, but it's up to him. I've told him to get fit, stay fit and he could have a big season here. He can be a top player, it's whether he has the dedication and desire to do that. He has lacked that in the past, but hopefully he's going to show what he can do."

Redknapp also reiterated his anger at next week's international programme, accusing football's authorities of being "crazy" for organising friendlies which, he says, will ruin many clubs' preparations.

He cannot understand why players are being forced to play for their countries just three days before the new League campaign. "I can't see who has the brains to organise this international week. Some of the players will come back not fit. It's crazy."