Sandro set for one last dart
Brazilian will suffer the slings and arrows in chase for Champions' League place
Sandro, the Tottenham Hotspur midfield player, jokingly claims to be the best darts player in Brazil. Pressed to come up with a catchy nickname, along the lines of The Power or The Force, he falls short. But, in any case, he has titles of another sort in his sights.
Having won South America's ultimate championship, the Copa Libertadores, with Internacional, he came to Britain in August 2010 to sample the European equivalent. It was in the Champions' League that he first showed Spurs fans why Harry Redknapp had paid an estimated £6 million for him. Today, Tottenham could seal a return to the competition, miss out altogether or end up spending a tense week that will test even Sandro's good humour before learning their fate.
If Tottenham beat Fulham at White Hart Lane and Arsenal slip up away to West Bromwich Albion, Spurs will finish third and secure qualification. Should both win, Tottenham will finish fourth and have to hope that Chelsea do not beat Bayern Munich in Saturday's Champions League final.
Newcastle could also finish third or fourth today but if Chelsea win in Munich, they will take the Premier League's fourth Champions League place. Sandro admits he will be a Bayern fan for the night.
"Of course," he said. "We know that we can get to third place but we can only rely on ourselves to do our job against Fulham, and obviously if something goes our way against Arsenal that will make it a perfect day.
"In Brazil I had won everything I wanted to with my club so it had all become a bit small. I came to Tottenham because I wanted to win trophies and fulfil a dream. For me to play in the Champions' League for the first time against big teams was a great experience. It's a great motivation, a great competition, not just for the team but also the fans."
It was in the victory over Milan that Sandro showed his value in the midfield holding role. "Milan is the game when Tottenham first saw me as the player I am. Other games weren't of the same importance or the same nature. I was very happy that people recognised that I could play a game of that magnitude."
Brazilians already knew, after watching Internacional's Copa campaign. "You're part of the history of a club because you've won that competition. And it's the same for me in the Champions' League. As I identify myself more with this club day by day, I want to be part of a team that wins those trophies."
This season, third place looked the least Tottenham could expect. But a new year slide coincided with suggestions Redknapp would take the England job now given to Roy Hodgson – who could do Redknapp and his team a huge favour today.
"At the beginning of the season really, honestly, we thought we could have been champions at this stage or at least fighting for it," Sandro said. "But in the second stage of the season we started losing a lot of games. That affected the team, affected the training. But with the team we have, next season we could be [competing] for the Premier League."
Champions' League football will make that more possible, as Gareth Bale and Luka Modric will be less likely to leave. "It's very important to keep everyone because we've adapted to each other's play but it's down to the [chairman]. I don't try to know who's leaving, who's staying. I know that I'm going to stay here and I'm going to be a Tottenham player."
That will be good news for the dressing room, where he has lightened the mood by dyeing his hair pink, then blue – "Harry said 'Change it, please, please'" – or giving an impromptu kick-boxing demonstration that ended up on YouTube. "I was playing around with the boys in the changing room and they started recording me but they said it wasn't going to go out. And two weeks later, oh my God. It was the most-watched video in Brazil that week."
And the darts? "It started when I was watching on TV and the atmosphere was interesting. A team-mate bought me some darts. I met [double world finalist] Bobby George and he showed me how to play. Now and then he comes to my house to play. I play his son. He's good."
Sandro's mother took some sets of darts back to Brazil, but he could make a more lasting impression on his home country this summer, when he plays in the Olympics. "I'm going to ask all the Tottenham fans to cheer for Brazil," he said. "When there was Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, no one managed to bring this gold medal home."
First, Fulham must be beaten. "At this moment, the dream is to finish in a Champions' League place – third, we hope. Then the Olympics. Then next season the Premier League."
Tottenham Hotspur v Fulham kicks off at 3pm this afternoon
Decision Day: Third & fourth
Arsenal (67pts) finish third if they win at West Bromwich. If they draw, Spurs (66) can overtake them. If they lose and Spurs lose or draw, Newcastle (65) can go third by winning at Everton. A draw is not good enough for Newcastle; Spurs have a far better goal difference. And next week: If Chelsea win the Champions' League, the fourth-placed team will go into the Europa League and the third-placed team will have to qualify.
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