The Englishman led a Tottenham side that starred Bale, Modric and Van der Vaart to the Uefa Champions League quarter-finals.
Harry Redknapp rates Pochettino's Tottenham as 'stronger all-round' compared to his 2010/11 side
Harry Redknapp is contemplating how his Tottenham Hotspur team compare to the club’s current crop of title challengers.
The former Spurs manager, currently in Dubai to participate in the ‘Swing Against Cancer’ Golf Series, spent four years at White Hart Lane from 2008, highlighted by the club’s first appearance in the Uefa Champions League.
Finally there, a team boasting Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart reached the 2010/11 quarter-finals before succumbing to Real Madrid.
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Next Wednesday, Tottenham entertain Madrid again, this time in the group stages, this time at Wembley Stadium, the second of two clashes in two weeks against the European champions.
At the Bernabeu last week, Tottenham took a point. They made one, too, suggesting that a team full of potential could soon fulfill that. Spurs rank first in Group H, Madrid second, locked together by two victories and that one draw.
Sharpened by Harry Kane’s goals, Christian Eriksen’s guile and built upon the solidity of Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris, Mauricio Pochettino’s dynamic young team seem equipped to fight on many fronts.
Currently, they sit joint-second in the Premier League after nine matches, intent on mounting a third successive bid for a first top-flight crown in more than half a century.
Little wonder, then, that Redknapp favours Pochettino’s squad to his – just.
“We had some great players, but this is a very strong team,” Redknapp says, sitting in his suite at The H Dubai. “They’re strong everywhere. I like the system now the manager’s gone to playing three at the back. The three central defenders look so strong.
"It’s a really good team. They’ve got cover everywhere. We had Van der Vaart, Bale, Modric: great individual players, exciting players. Maybe all-round this is a stronger team.”
What Redknapp would have given to have Kane in his side back then. The Premier League’s lead scorer this season, the Englishman has eight goals having not found the net, typically, until September. On Sunday, he struck twice in the 4-1 dismantling of Liverpool, lifting his 2017 haul to 45 goals in 40 games for club and country.
Last season, Kane won the Premier League’s Golden Boot. And the season before that. At 24, a product of Tottenham’s academy is progressing at a rate few anticipated. This week, Kane said he wants to some day rival Lionel Messi and Ronaldo as the world’s best player.
While Redknapp is reluctant to place him in that bracket, he does not conceal his admiration.
"For me, he’s the best striker in the Premier League,” he says. “But it wouldn’t be fair to compare him to a Lionel Messi or a Ronaldo. These players are on another planet, their ability another level to anybody. But he’s certainly up there with the best strikers in the world.
"You might think someone has more ability or can do something out of nothing. But he’s scored more goals than anyone two years running now. And he missed nine games last year. Without a doubt for me, unless he gets injured, he’ll end up top goalscorer again this year.
"He can do everything. He’s a joy for any manager to have around and work with. He’s not a minute’s problem. He has just been unplayable."
Kane’s progress at Tottenham has made him England’s No 1 striker. Of late, he has played the role of Gareth Southgate’s “temporary” captain. Having seen Kane develop first-hand during his time at Tottenham, Redknapp says he should be given the armband long-term.
“Yeah, I do,” he says. “I can see him as England captain, definitely. He’s almost faultless as a professional, a great lad, a lovely family man. He lives for football, comes in every day, works hard, practices after training.
“He’s on the training ground working on his finishing, on his speed. He deserves all he’s got. He’s worked to get where he’s got. He’s not been a George Best or somebody who’s a genius. He’s worked at it.”
Tottenham are working on winning silverware this season. If there is one criticism of Pochettino and his side, it is that three years together has yet to translate to tangibles. Granted, there has been a third and a second in the Premier League in consecutive campaigns, and a place in the 2014/15 League Cup final, but still no trophies.
Yet Redknapp envisages that changing come May.
“I think they’ll win a cup, I certainly do,” he says. “But I still think they’ll come up short in the Premier League to Manchester City. At the moment, they’re the team to beat.
“When everyone’s fit, Tottenham are a fantastic group of players, lovely balance to the squad, can play many formations. They’re a great, all-round team. The two centre-halves are great, the keeper. But, for me, the two outstanding players are Dele Alli and Harry Kane.
"Pochettino’s been excellent. He’s done a great job, they’ve built a fantastic team there. I love watching Spurs play."
Roll on Madrid next week, then.
“What a fantastic game to look forward to, for the fans, for the club,” Redknapp says. “Won’t that be an interesting game? I wouldn’t like to pick a winner, but I’d certainly like to watch it.”
Harry Redknapp will compete on Thursday at the ‘Swing Against Cancer’ Golf Series finale at Jumeirah Golf Estates, organised by Sixteen10 and Worldwide Golf. To purchase tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org or to find out more visit swingagainstcancerauction.com.