If Daniel Levy would like the next Tottenham Hotspur manager to be a “yes” man, it is safe to assume that Tim Sherwood will be looking for a new job at the end of the season.
Since the 4-0 defeat at Chelsea 12 days ago, Sherwood has questioned the character of some members of his squad, and then told the team they were playing for their futures. Now, before attempting the improbable task of staying in the Europa League against an accomplished Benfica side, the head coach has questioned the club’s transfer policy.
As chairman, Levy has always played a central role in transfers. He has become famed for concluding deals late in the transfer window, and it has led to doubts about how much control a Tottenham manager has over the buying and selling of players.
Sherwood insists that, if he is given the job, he will have the final say on transfers. This week, the Dnipro president Ihor Kolomoyskyi, claimed he was in talks with Levy to sell the Ukraine winger Yevhen Konoplyanka to Spurs. Sherwood was, however, cool on the idea, and also hinted that Spurs have not always been sufficiently thorough when researching targets.
“Konoplyanka showed some nice touches when we played Dnipro in the last round, but there are a lot of players around with nice touches,” Sherwood said on Wednesday. “I think we have to make sure we see a lot more of these guys before they come in, not just the highlights. Nobody else will come in unless I sanction it. Is Konoplyanka the kind of player I want to sign? Not at the moment. I believe I’ll be here next year and I’m planning for next season.”
If Sherwood could sign new players for Thursday’s last 16 game, he would doubtless choose central defenders. Tottenham need to overturn a 3-1 deficit but do not have a single senior centre-back available.
Jan Vertonghen is suspended, while Younès Kaboul, Michael Dawson and Vlad Chiriches are injured. It means Milos Veljkovic, an 18-year-old academy graduate who has never played for the first team, could make his debut alongside midfielder Sandro in central defence.
Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker, Paulinho, Mousa Dembélé and Emmanuel Adebayor have also failed to make the trip, meaning that youngsters Jordan Archer, Luke McGee, Alexander McQueen, Dominic Ball, Connor Ogilvie, Harry Winks and Joshua Onomah – a 16-year-old – are all in the squad. Sherwood insists, though, that he will try to protect them.
“Unless we need to, they won’t be thrown into the lion’s den, because you could end up killing someone’s career before it’s even started,” he reflected. Sherwood was less forgiving, however, towards two of his contemporaries. His touchline battle with Benfica’s coach, Jorge Jesus, ended with the latter waving three fingers in Sherwood’s direction after Benfica’s third goal in the first leg.
Asked whether he hoped to perform a similar gesture tonight, Sherwood smiled and discussed the prospect of raising only one finger.
His response to Louis van Gaal was just as barbed. After the Netherlands coach repeated on Wednesday his desire to work in England, Sherwood added: “I’m sure he’ll get his opportunity: he’s been shouting loudly enough for it.”
If his team are similarly feisty, Benfica might find their task to be harder than they imagined.
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