Zokora keen to earn his spurs after snubbing rivals

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Arsenal were first, Chelsea came next and then Tottenham Hotspur followed. That was nothing to do with League placings, but the order in which each team has acquired a player from the Ivory Coast.

After Kolo Touré and Emmanuel Eboué for the Gunners and Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge, the newest Ivorian to arrive in the Premiership is Didier Zokora, signed this summer by Tottenham for £8.2m from the French club St-Etienne. It is a transfer which rounded off an eventful six-month period for the midfielder, starting with losing the African Nations' Cup final on penalties in February, taking in his country's World Cup debut and now joining Martin Jol's side.

It could get even more interesting when he plays his first game against Arsenal, in early December, not only because he will be up against two of his closest friends in the game, with whom he shared his country's World Cup adventure, but because he actually turned down an approach from Arsène Wenger to join the Champions' League finalists.

Zokora said: "Tottenham are an ambitious club with lots of good young players and for me they are a club for the future. I listened to an offer from Arsenal, but decided Tottenham was the club I wanted to be at. One of the big things was that Tottenham really showed that they wanted me. That really pleased me.

"Kolo Touré and Eboué are friends of mine and, of course, it would have been nice to play with them - but I really wanted to go to Tottenham. I was impressed by them and I know Damien Comolli, their director of football. I was very impressed by what they had to offer. Comolli came out to speak to me at the World Cup and told me what a great club Tottenham are. I also think we have to be ambitious and aim for the Champions' League."

Perhaps because they knew they would lose Michael Carrick - Manchester United completed the deal for the England international on Monday night for £18.6m - Spurs made their move for Zokora, although he is not a like-for-like acquisition.

As he showed in the World Cup, where his country put on good displays in losing to Argentina and the Netherlands by a single goal before exiting on a high by beating Serbia & Montenegro, he is not someone to guide the play and neither is he simply a deeper holding midfielder.

Modest to a fault, he does not like to extol his own abilities, which are something of a mix of those two styles, but when pressed he admits: "I think I'm a defensive player but I can also penetrate going forward."

Undaunted by the amount Spurs paid for him, he says he thrives on the pressure it brings. "I'm not known in England and it's a big price tag so I need to perform to show people I'm worth even more money than they spent on me. There is pressure but that's what it's all about."

That first north London derby should go a long way to proving whether that statement is true or not.

* Newcastle United were last night linked with a move for Real Madrid pair Thomas Gravesen and Jonathan Woodgate, a former St James' favourite.

Comments