Gallas: Spurs deserve to outlast Arsenal in Champions League
EX-ARSENAL captain William Gallas believes that Tottenham have deserved to progress beyond the Gunners in the Champions League – because Spurs finished top of their group before Christmas.
Gallas, who controversially left the Emirates for White Hart Lane on a free transfer in the summer, was an imperious figure again last night as Harry Redknapp’s Lilywhites booked their place in the quarter-finals with a nervy goalless draw at home against AC Milan, securing a 1-0 aggregate victory over the seven-times European champions.
That triumph, in Tottenham’s first ever season in the Champions League, came just 24 hours after Arsenal’s elimination by Barcelona at the Nou Camp.
The difference in fortunes, says Gallas, is that Spurs topped a group including Inter Milan, Werder Bremen and FC Twente, while Arsenal finished second in Group H behind Shakhtar Donetsk.
“It was the group - the most important thing for us was to finish on top, because it meant we did not play a big team like Barcelona,” said the Frenchman. “We did a good job when we won the group. You can’t say that we drew a ‘small team’ because we played AC Milan, but we had a little chance. It was a 50/50 chance to qualify for the quarter-final so we did the job very well and maybe that made the difference.
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“I’m pleased to qualify, I don’t feel anything about Arsenal. It was a difficult game for them, they were playing against the best team in the world so it was not easy. But for me, now I play for Tottenham, for Spurs, so every other team is behind me.”
Gallas feels that he was heavily criticised in the summer after his move across north London. But, having made 27 appearances for the Lilywhites this season – and been a central figure in their historic Champions League adventure – the 33-year-old believes that he may have silenced some critics.
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“When I signed for Tottenham, I just wanted to play football, to show everybody who I am. Everybody judged me because I didn’t have a good World Cup, and I was injured last year so I had a lot criticism, but football is like that. Now I’m very happy to show everybody who I am,” he said.
“If I left Arsenal it was for some reason – I won’t say why now, but the most important thing was to stay in London for my family and to play in the Champions League. “Tottenham gave me that opportunity to play in the Champions League so I signed for them. Now maybe people are happy about what I did. I don’t know if I have proven a point, that is for other people to say.”
Redknapp revealed in January that Gallas has become his first-choice centre-back, and the Spurs boss is keen to extend the defender’s one-year contract at Tottenham.
The former Arsenal and Chelsea defender will automatically earn a new deal if he starts more than 30 games this season, and looks set to reach that total after making the starting XI 26 times so far – with at least 12 games to go in the Premier League and Europe.
However, Gallas refuses to be drawn on his future – and concedes that Tottenham’s fate in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League will be pivotal in his decision.
“Will I be here next season? Maybe, I don’t know yet,” he said. “I don’t know what can happen, nobody can know about the future. I’m happy to be here, we’ll try to see if I can stay here for next season.
“I think it will be very important to be in the Champions League next season, so I will do my best to do everything for them [Spurs], because I think they deserve it. The fans are great, the atmosphere is unbelievable, and Tottenham are starting to be big.”
For now, Gallas is just looking forward to the draw for the quarter-finals, and he admits that the sky is the limit for Tottenham – if they can avoid Barcelona.
“Nobody knows how far we can go - even us, we don’t know if we’re going to go to the final,” he said. “We know we have the quality to beat any team, but now we have to understand that the Champions League is not easy. You have to focus during 90 minutes, like we did last night.
“I think it was very important for us to qualify, because now all the players know we have the qualities, so now we are strong. The future is good for Tottenham and I hope we will play against, well, I won’t say a ‘small team’, but I don’t think we want to play against Barcelona!”