As Christian Eriksen and Tottenham meet again, can they be what the other needs?

Eriksen will be out of contract this summer following his impressive spell at Brentford while Antonio Conte has made no secret of his admiration for the former Spurs midfielder

Jamie Braidwood
Friday 22 April 2022 13:10
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<p>Christian Eriksen will face Tottenham for the first time on Saturday </p>

Christian Eriksen will face Tottenham for the first time on Saturday

There will be an emotional reunion between Christian Eriksen and Tottenham Hotspur at the Brentford Community Stadium on Saturday. In time, there could be another, more permanent one.

In early February, days after Eriksen signed for Brentford on a short-term contract, Antonio Conte opened the door to a return to Spurs. He didn’t quite guide him through, though. At that point, seven months on from suffering a cardiac arrest and requiring life-saving treatment while playing for Denmark at Euro 2020, Eriksen had yet to step back onto a football pitch and there were doubts over whether he would be able to at all.

Now Eriksen is leading a Brentford side who are standing in Tottenham’s path to the top four and Champions League qualification. The midfielder’s return to football has been one of the stories of the season and he has made a wonderful impact in west London, inspiring a club who looked to be sliding towards relegation and steering them away from danger.

Brentford have won all five games in which Eriksen has started and come into Saturday’s match second only to Liverpool in the Premier League form table. Eriksen has been decisive, and Tottenham are looking to be the same as they enter their final straight. Conte’s side have six games of the season remaining to finish above rivals Arsenal and secure a top four finish.

Whether Spurs beat Arsenal to fourth place or not is set to have a major influence on the discussions Conte will be having with director of football Fabio Paratici and a list of targets is already being drawn up ahead of the summer transfer window. There is expected to be a significant overhaul of Tottenham’s squad in what is a crucial phase for the club as they prepare for what is set to be Conte’s first full season in charge.

Eriksen has been mentioned as a potential option, and indeed was so even before he returned to the pitch with Brentford in February, following his exit from Inter Milan on the grounds that he could not continue playing in Italy while his heart was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator device.

Conte was surprised when Eriksen signed for Brentford on January deadline day as he thought the midfielder needed more time before coming back to play in England. The Italian is loyal to players he trusts and gained faith in Eriksen, who came through a difficult start in Italy to become a central part of his title-winning team at Inter.

Conte would welcome Eriksen back to Tottenham

In January Conte and Paratici turned to players they knew in Italy in Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur, while Tottenham looked to streamline their squad once they were out of Europe. Conte had been allowed time to look at the players at his disposal and out went Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele and Giovanni Lo Celso. In turn Tottenham have benefited from Conte knowing his strongest team and building familiarity, at the expense of having a deeper squad.

There could be further outgoings but the focus this summer will be on adding numbers, with attacking midfield one of several areas requiring reinforcements. The upcoming window was always likely to be their first major test and Tottenham will be under no illusions that Conte will expect his demands to be met as he looks to build a squad capable of challenging for the Premier League title and major honours.

The offer of Champions League football would be a further advantage, with Arsenal and Manchester United also likely to undergo major shifts in personnel this summer and only one place between them. Ralf Rangnick has said United are looking at bringing in a list of up to 10 players and Tottenham might not be too far behind. Conte will want players who match him and his system.

Which brings us to Eriksen. Brentford want him to stay and Thomas Frank thinks they have a chance. Even without the emotion of his return to the pitch, the 30-year-old’s impact at the club has made him one of the signings of the season and there would be a certain romance to Eriksen staying beyond the campaign.

But how long can it last, realistically. The objectives of his move to the club have already been completed. He has returned to football. He has helped Brentford by injecting life into their season and battle to avoid relegation. In turn, he is back in the Denmark squad and has twice scored for his country, a major step in his stated goal to play at the World Cup in November.

Eriksen is aiming to play at the World Cup after scoring on his Denmark return

It is a rare example of a move that has been equally beneficial to both parties and the guarantee of regular game time ahead of the World Cup could yet be key to Brentford’s offer. But Eriksen will also be faced with the temptation of getting back to where he was, performing in the Champions League and competing for titles under one of the best managers in Europe.

Ultimately, whether that is where he wants to be is up to him. Tottenham could potentially be as suitable a destination in the summer as Brentford were in January. It is presumably also a simple and cost-effective deal to do, while Spurs have been often looked short of a player like Eriksen ever since he left. Spurs will be able to offer familiarity and Eriksen would be welcomed home.

It’s funny how even that has changed. Eriksen was key to Spurs’ best years under Mauricio Pochettino, a scorer of great goals and provider of better assists in his seven seasons at the club and twice their player of the year. But his exit in January 2020 was sour, as were his final months at the club after Pochettino was sacked. He wanted to leave, and Tottenham fans didn’t appreciate his efforts to do so in public – but a lot, to put it bluntly, has happened since.

Instead, Spurs fans at Brentford on Saturday will greet Eriksen as one of their own. There will be reminders of the past as Eriksen faces Spurs in a match that is significant to their future. In time, they could again find that they are exactly what the other needs.

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