Saha's last chance Spurs saloon

Could a France recall beckon for a revitalised Louis Saha if Spurs good form continues?

    Saha joined the London club on the final day of the January transfer window after scoring only two goals in twenty appearances this season with former side Everton [GALLO/GETTY]

    For a player so synonymous with injury, Louis Saha seemed indestructible a year ago when he drove his Ferrari 458 Italia into a fencepost off a busy road in Cheshire, England.

    The French forward walked away unscathed, but according to police, he would not have survived had the car been a right-hand drive model.
    The anniversary of his brush with death provides a perfect moment for reflection for Saha, whose stop-start career appears transformed by a surprise move at the end of last month’s transfer window to London club Tottenham Hotspur.
    At the time of the accident 12 months ago, Saha was preparing for Everton’s FA Cup fifth round tie against Reading.

    Now, he’s getting ready for Spurs’ trip to Stevenage at the same stage of the famous competition, with the confidence of his first two goals for the club in the English Premier League last weekend.
    Funnily enough, almost destroying his $270,000 Ferrari last year has not put him off driving.

    “When I got the call (to join Spurs), I was just like: 'where's my car?'” he said.

    “It was as simple as that because I just got great excitement from that move. As a kid, you always dreamed of playing fantasy football, attacking football and you've seen that here.”
    His first-half brace in his starting debut for Tottenham against Newcastle United saw the 33-year-old match his goal-scoring tally in the first 20 games of the season for Everton.

    Shrewd move

    Handing Saha the number-15 shirt last worn by Peter Crouch, manager Harry Redknapp once again showed an uncanny knack of shuffling his deck of world-class strikers.
    Saha was preferred to Spurs’ top scorer Jermain Defoe and formed an instant combination with Togo’s Emmanuel Adebayor, who scored a goal and provided four assists in the stunning 5-0 victory at White Hart Lane.
    “In the first 15 minutes, it was like the quickest football that I've ever played and to be part of that is just a pleasure,” he said.

    “I like the pace and with so much creativity you have to make the right move at the right time. You can feel that your chance is going to be there in one moment and you have to take it.”
    In a broader sense, Saha will be determined not to blow what could be the last, big chance of what has been an unfulfilled resume to date.
    The former star recruit from the Clairefontaine academy has long had all the attributes of an accomplished striker: deceptively quick, technically gifted, big enough to be a handful and a potent finisher.
    But too often, he is flattered to deceive and under-delivered when it really counted. He has been so prone to injuries – usually hamstring, groin or knee - that you fear that he could fracture a metatarsal as he walks onto the pitch or break a rib when he sneezes.
    His most consistent period came at Fulham where he played in 142 matches in less than four years, scoring an impressive 65 goals, including one against Manchester United in a famous 3-1 victory at Old Trafford in the 2003-2004 season that caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson.

    In vogue

    Saha failed to live up to expectations when he joined Manchester United in 2004 [EPA]

    Saha’s value had jumped from $3.3 million to 2000 to $20 million when he joined the Red Devils in January 2004. But despite a few high points, 28 goals in 86 league matches was considered a disappointing return over four and a half seasons.

    Joining goal-shy Everton in a cautious ‘pay as you play’ deal in 2008 did little to improve Saha’s reputation as a streaky forward who had hot periods but lacked consistency.
    In 2009, he scored the fastest goal – 25 seconds - in FA Cup final history in a losing effort against Chelsea and managed 33 Premier League appearances in the 2009-2010 campaign, almost twice his tally in his last season at Man United.

    He also scored four times - his first Premier League hat-trick – in a 5-3 victory over Blackpool in 2010-2011.
    But by September 2011 after yet another breakdown, Saha revealed was on the verge on quitting the game altogether.

    His return to the France side after a four-year gap – he has just four goals in 19 appearances – had been scuppered by a calf injury.
    When he was fit again, goals were hard to come by. He had endured an Everton league drought of 942 consecutive minutes when he moved on a free transfer to Tottenham, having scored 35 times for the Toffees in 115 appearances in all competitions.
    "I could say that I expected to stay (at Everton) but in football things change very quickly in six months,” Saha said.

    “The transfer was a surprise but it’s been there in the background. I was an Everton player until the last minute but when the move was complete I was very happy."
    Like managers at his five previous clubs, Redknapp is throwing the dice on Saha’s fitness. But Spurs’ policy of rotating strikers will better suit Saha, who sat uncomfortably in the role of being the main man up-front at Goodison Park.
    It is not even beyond the realms of possibility that France coach Laurent Blanc might recall the former Metz player for Les Bleus at June’s European Championship in Poland and Ukraine.
    As long as he does not need to drive to faraway matches and avoids breaking a leg coming out of the shower, Saha could well be a risk worth taking for both club and country.

    Jason Dasey is an Asia-based international sports broadcaster and host of Football Fever the world's first international soccer podcast with an Asia-Pacific perspective. Twitter: JasonDasey

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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