LONDON, (AFP): Christian Eriksen’s present meets the Danish midfielder’s past when his former side Ajax travel to Tottenham for the first leg of an unexpected Champions League semi-final for both sides on Tuesday.
But where Eriksen’s future lies will give a good indication of whether times have truly have changed at Spurs.
Ajax arrive in London already in the knowledge that despite reaching a first Champions League semi-final since 1997, they will sell a number of their shining lights this summer and start again.
Frenkie de Jong has already sealed a 75 million euro ($85 million) move to Barcelona for next season, captain Matthis de Ligt is expected to command a similar fee, while Hakim Ziyech, Donny van der Beek, David Neres and Nicolas Tagliafico could also go.
Spurs have benefited themselves from the conveyer belt of talent that rolls through the academy at the Dutch giants.
As well as Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez will come up against their former club in the last four.
Tottenham have long since had a similar, if less prolific strategy.
Luka Modric and Gareth Bale eventually outgrew Spurs’ status to join Real Madrid, where they went onto win four Champions League titles together.
However, having moved into now the biggest club ground in London and edging ever closer to a fourth consecutive season of Champions League football, manager Mauricio Pochettino wants Tottenham to truly belong among the European elite.
“We need to start to think about the new chapter, the new era, to ensure Tottenham is a real contender for the big things,” said Pochettino as the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was opened last month.
“We have to behave like a big club for sure. We need to be a realistic contender for big things.”
Behaving like a big club means keeping hold of their best players.
Pochettino has not yet won a trophy, but the Argentine has worked wonders in making Tottenham top-four regulars in the Premier League despite far more limited resources.
The club’s accounts published earlier this month revealed a world record £113 million net profit thanks to a wage bill half that of Manchester United.
Unlike Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min, who have committed to long-term deals, Eriksen has just over a year left on his contract and is in no rush to renew with rumoured interest from Real Madrid and Juventus.
“The timing for him or for the club to be agreeing something are maybe different to another player,” said Pochettino, after Eriksen scored the only goal in a vital 1-0 win over Brighton last week.
“I hope and I wish Christian can be with us in the future but I think Christian and us we are so open to talk and we will see what happens.”
By getting Tottenham to the last four of the European Cup for the first time since 1962 on a short and at times injury-ravaged squad having not signed a single player since January 2018, Pochettino has done his bit to herald a new era for the club.
Now the pressure is on chairman Daniel Levy to ensure such nights are commonplace, and that starts with using some of those profits to tie down Eriksen.
“We just have to trust that the people upstairs are going to do whatever they see fit to make that next step,” said Spurs full-back Danny Rose.
“If you look over the five years the manager has been here, I think Christian has played the most games and that says a lot.
“When Christian does not play, people do question whether we look the same. He links everything up for us and it is a pleasure to play with him.”
(Will he stay or go? Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen is coveted by Europe’s top clubs. Photo: AFP-Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)
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