With Tottenham’s progression through to the last eight of the Champions League on Wednesday night a new superstar may have emerged. The likes of Gareth Bale, Luke Modric, Rafael Van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon will be much applauded for their attacking prowess, and no doubt attract attention from big name clubs both in England and in Europe when the transfer window re-opens in the summer, but the unsung hero of the Milan tie has to be Brazilian Sandro, who excelled in both legs of the tie to give Harry Redknapp confidence that he has another top drawer midfielder in his star studded squad.
The midfield dynamo signed for the London club back in September 2010 from Internacional, but had struggled to make an impact in England, and has had limited chances in the Spurs first team, with Redknapp preferring to utilise Tom Huddlestone and/or Wilson Palacios in the centre of the park as a foil to playmaker Luka Modric. However with Huddlestone’s long term ankle injury, the door was opened for Sandro to get more time on the pitch, and his performances against Milan will ensure that Huddlestone will have difficulty winning his starting place back when he is fully fit again.
Sandro has achieved a lot in his career despite his young age (21), having played a pivotal part in previous club Internacional’s Copa Libertadores victory in 2010 and being a regular fixture in, and captain of, Brazil’s under 21 set-up, before making his senior team debut back in 2009. Even since his move to Tottenham his performances have improved dramatically over the last number of months and he was the best player on the park against Milan in midweek.
Tottenham teammate and countryman Heurelho Gomes likened Sandro to Brazilian stalwart Carlos Dunga following the club’s European heroics; Sandro however is more in the mold of someone like Gilberto Silva – a big physical presence that can sit in front of his team’s backline and break up play, but also has the assurance and footballing ability to pick a pass, and the energy and drive to make breaks forward. Sandro showcased all these talents in midweek; he consistently frustrated Milan by iinterupting their attacks and did well to counter the visitors diamond midfield formation that left him a bit alone at times, with Modric pushing forward. Despite giving the ball away on occasion early in the fixture due to nerves, Sandro recovered well to be part of Tottenham’s play and contribute to their attack on occasion. His defining moment of the tie for me was when, deep into the second half with his team lookng weary, he intercepted another pass from the Milan attackers on the edge of his own box, layed the ball off to a teammate and made a lung busting run forward to play a part in the Tottenham counter attack.
Tottenham have long called out for a top class central midfielder with a battling quality, and Huddlestone has been earmarked to fit this bill. Although Huddlestone has a superior range of passing and more of an eye for goal than Sandro, the young South American has more dynamism and is more likely to put his foot into a challenge than the newly capped England international, without being as reckless as Wilson Palacios. The contrasting attributes of the midfield options at his disposal will give Redknapp a selection headache when they are all fit and available to play, but in away fixtures when Spurs need extra protection from midfield Sandro may well take precedence.
With important fixtures coming up for Spurs, Redknapp will be glad to have the energetic and talented Brazilian in his ranks and Sandro could play a big part in Tottenham’s future domestically and in Europe for seasons to come.