Aston Villa ought to feel flattered. Following Christian Eriksen’s match-winning cameo from the substitutes’ bench against the newly-promoted side on Saturday a list of pundits from Jamie Redknapp to Pascal Chimbonda have warned Tottenham that if they lose the influential midfielder this season that elusive first trophy under Mauricio Pochettino may never come about.
Pochettino himself has spoken of his frustration at the English transfer window closing while a player such as Eriksen is still available for the next couple of weeks should Real Madrid renew their interest, and in support of their manager’s position Tottenham are understood to be willing to double the Dane’s wages if he will sign a new contract worth a reported £200,000 per week. It is unlikely to have taken a second-half intervention against a tiring Villa side to alert Spurs to the value of Eriksen; the club are only too aware that he is now entering the final year of his contract and could talk to potential suitors about leaving on a free as early as January.
Should Eriksen run his contract down Juventus could be a likely destination. The patient Italian club have established picking up quality players for next to nothing as a virtual modus operandi in recent years, and there is no doubt that Eriksen is good enough to follow the route taken by Paul Pogba, Aaron Ramsey and Emre Can out of English football in the past. That would be a disappointment for Spurs, and their hard-nosed chairman Daniel Levy, as selling Eriksen to Real Madrid before the European window closes on 2 September would be preferable to losing such an important player for nothing.
Three options are open to Eriksen, who has said he feels ready for a new challenge. He can stay where he is for more money, wait until the end of the season to leave on a free, or consider any offer that comes in over the next week or two. The trouble with the third option is that it is not really an option at all until Real Madrid or someone else make a move. While it is likely that initial discussions have taken place at some level behind the scenes, with Real Madrid adopting their usual ploy of letting the world know they are interested in signing a player then going quiet on the matter as the deadline approaches, the long-mooted move to Spain is for the moment out of the player’s hands.
Despite the handsome offer of a new contract, Spurs would not really expect to be able to fight off a serious bid from Real Madrid, should one actually materialise in the next few days. Eriksen has been at Tottenham for six years and anyone could understand a 27-year-old finding the chance of a move to the Bernabéu hard to turn down. From a purely financial point of view a firm cash offer from the Spanish giants would suit everyone best apart from Pochettino, even if Spurs wish to be seen to be trying their utmost to keep the player, but will one arrive now Real appear to have cooled their interest?
Still in the market for Pogba, on whom Zinedine Zidane is thought to be more keen, Real are not in desperate need of midfield reinforcement, and why should they pay out now for a player who will be available for nothing next season? Even were Eriksen to sign a new contract at Spurs it is believed he would insert a clause enabling him to move to Spain or Italy should an offer of a certain size come in, yet though that would earn him a substantial pay rise and represent the best of all worlds for the individual, the scenario is nowhere near as attractive to potential foreign buyers as biding their time and talking to him as a free agent in January.
What should a club like Tottenham do in these situations? Resign themselves to losing the player is usually the answer. Ian Wright has said Spurs need to do something to prevent key players leaving for nothing, without offering any advice as to the best way of achieving that aim. A footballer who enters the last year of his contract having resisted invitations to sign a new deal has probably made up his mind already, and the increased wages presently being bandied about are most likely just window dressing for public consumption.
Tottenham will either lose Eriksen for a sum of money or they will get another season out of him on his present terms. There is no suggestion that he intends to sulk or cause problems if he has to stay another year in London. That is not the worst set of circumstances a club could be faced with, and Tottenham need to find a way to make the best of it then move on. That seems to be what the player hopes to do, but players are not the only participants in this game who can be invigorated by new challenges. The challenge for Spurs at the moment is to show that no one is irreplaceable, not even a playmaker of Eriksen’s class.