Ossie Ardiles: Tottenham must keep Gareth Bale

TOTTENHAM legend Ossie Ardiles is urging the club to keep hold of their best players this summer after chairman Daniel Levy’s revelation that he is intent on ‘streamlining’ his squad.

In the same week that both Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart were nominated for the PFA Player of the year, Levy announced that he will ‘balance the books’ after Tottenham’s first season in the Champions League resulted in a significant increase in operating costs, most of which is directly linked to Tottenham’s squad size.

Levy told the London Stock Exchange: “We have hosted one of the largest squads in the Premier League during this period. It is important to create a healthy balance in any squad between competition for places and for players to play consistently.

“Whilst this large squad eased our progress in the Champions League, we shall continue to look to streamline our squad where appropriate.”

The chairman’s statement raised immediate fears among fans that should Tottenham fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League, Levy would seek to offload his highest earners, figures like Bale, Van der Vaart and Luka Modric around whom manager Harry Redknapp has built one of the most attacking and entertaining sides in Spurs’ recent history.

Bale, in particular, has been the subject of increasing speculation over his future, with his performances home and away against Inter Milan, coupled with his nomination for both PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year, drawing attention from Europe’s leading clubs.

But Ardiles, who himself became a Tottenham idol in his time at White Hart Lane between 1978 and 1988, believes the club are financially stable enough to be in no rush to sell its top players – even if they fail to return to the Champions League next season.

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“I would not read too much into the talk of selling players,” said Ardiles. “Once the season is over we will know where we are next season, maybe it’s the Champions League, maybe the Europa League, but if we don’t make the Champions League we do not necessarily have to sell players because the club is on a good financial footing.

“You always want to keep your best players, players like Bale, Rafael van der Vaart, Luka Modric. It does not surprise me that they have been subject to speculation. But they are all happy at the club and I cannot see any reason for them to leave.”

If Levy is concerned about Tottenham’s financial deficit, then selling the Welsh winger would probably solve that problem in an instant.

But that is very much the worst-case scenario for Spurs, and certainly for Redknapp, who recently suggested that only a world-record bid of �80million would tempt him to agreeing to part with Bale.

“All I’ve said is if Tottenham start selling people like Gareth Bale then you have to accept you are never going to be a top club, really,” said the Spurs boss. “I’m sure the chairman, Daniel, wants to be a top club, he wants to be a top-four club. Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal want to do it every year and if we want to do it we can’t do it by selling players.

“The question they have to answer is do we want to keep our best players and progress as a team that [qualifies] once every 10 or twenty years? Or are we going to be a team that looks to do it every year?

“The chairman won’t have any intention of selling him – like I wouldn’t.”

More likely, and with far less damaging effects, Levy’s actions would see several of Tottenham’s fringe players depart White Hart Lane. David Bentley, Jonathan Woodgate, Roman Pavlyuchenko and possibly even Ledley King could see themselves shipped out of north London.

But the scenario does highlight the precarious nature of life for a club playing Champions League football. Once the stay in Europe’s elite competition comes to an end, the financial repercussions for a club which has spent beyond its means can be disastrous – just ask Leeds United.

For Tottenham, it highlights the importance of qualifying for next season’s competition. But the remaining seven fixtures are difficult, and Ardiles believes Tottenham face an even harder task than they did last year.

“I think it will be more difficult than before, Manchester City have got better, they have better players. But last season Tottenham won at Manchester City, and they beat Arsenal and Chelsea too, so now they need to do it again,” said Ardiles.

“If you are asking if I am optimistic, I would say yes. But it will be touch and go. All the games between now and the end of the season will be fast and furious.

“The Chelsea game as well, and Arsenal of course, everyone in England knows that is a special game. But the team has a lot of confidence and we know we can beat them.”