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Jack: Christian meets Kristian; a sitdown with the Spurs star

Kristian Jack
8/14/2014 4:40:18 PM
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A year is a long time in the life of a footballer.

Christian Eriksen smiles when he thinks back to this time last season. He lived in Amsterdam, where his team Ajax had allowed him to blossom and become one of the genuine young stars in the game.

He had joined their famous youth academy in 2008, aged 16, and two years later he was in their first team.

That year he was one of 736 players that went to the World Cup in South Africa and he was the youngest of them all.

He returned to win three straight Dutch Eredivisie titles with Ajax, during which he had developed into one of the finest young playmakers in Europe. He had become a star in Holland and performed very well on the grandest stage of them all, the Champions League.

Still only 21, with one year left on his contract, the Danish creator knew his time with Ajax had come to an end.

As the new season started he admits he had multiple offers to choose from. In the end he selected White Hart Lane as the place to continue his growth as a footballer.

Now he is a Premier League star.

However, the move was not a formality for him. He added: "For me as a person I didn't say yes straight away. I loved it at Ajax and wanted to see what the other possibilities were around me before committing. I decided Tottenham were the best option."

Despite his cautiousness, Eriksen acknowledged that the allure of the Premier League is a large one for many players playing in Europe and the pull of London was also a large factor.

"Living in London is a pretty big part of it but I am there for the football but, of course, if you are enjoying a good life then it makes it easier for you on the pitch as well."

Geography has helped Tottenham in such situations time and time again. They remain a big club, but nowhere near as big for people now in their thirties than those in their sixties, for example.

That comes down to the club's success in the 1960s where for a time they were the standard of English football. Since winning a then record eighth FA Cup in 1991, Tottenham have won just two league cups in the past 23 years, the same as Aston Villa and Leicester City.

However, their roots and their location has helped them continuously attract special players to North London, the likes of Ossie Ardiles, Paul Gascoigne, Jurgen Klinsmann, David Ginola; players who have not only been talented but also been pure entertainers as well, who regularly get fans out of their seats.

Eriksen looks like he could be the newest member of that class.

When the former Ajax playmaker was brought to White Hart Lane at the end of August he was only Tottenham's fourth-most expensive signing of the window; behind Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado and Paulinho. The day he signed, Tottenham also revealed the capture of Argentine Lamela, for almost three times the amount of Eriksen. If Tottenham wanted to keep the Dane under the radar, captured at a discount because his contract was close to expiring, they were certainly doing a good job at it. The moment he stepped on the field he wasn't under the radar anymore.

Eriksen made his debut in Tottenham's fourth game of the season, at home to Norwich, and the team had yet to score a goal from open play. The playmaker took 28 minutes to do what Tottenham couldn't do in 270, putting a perfectly weighted pass in to Gylfi Sigurdsson who opened the scoring. In the second half, Eriksen found himself in his office - the central space outside the penalty box - when he switched the play brilliantly to Paulinho on the right side. It was the kind of pass that most players wouldn't have even seen but seconds later Tottenham extended their lead when Sigurdsson tapped home the Brazilian's cross at the back post.

When he was taken off after 71 minutes, Eriksen got a standing ovation from his new fans.

It's a game Eriksen will never forget.

"Of all my experiences from the first season, my debut is very high on that list."

Afterwards, his manager Andre Villas-Boas called his new star 'a pure number ten' but less than four months later he had been sacked and replaced by Tim Sherwood.

Eriksen nods his head when told about how tough it must have been to play under two very different managers with different philosophies.

"It was a bit weird. It was even harder for me because I came a bit late and when I got in everybody was used to Villas-Boas and knew him but for me it was new, I learned a lot and then he was gone and I had to learn again with the change but that's football, you know? Of course you play off the coach but as a player you play for the club and if they make a decision then you have to agree with it."

It didn't get in the way of Eriksen's form as he went on to become the club's player of the year, putting in many outstanding performances while also showcasing his versatility as a deep-lying playmaker in a match at Old Trafford where Tottenham countered for both goals, with Eriksen scoring one and creating the other.

Eriksen, just like anyone at the club, will not use the manager change as an excuse for Tottenham's inability to crack the top four once again but its clear what he wants when asked how his team needs to improve this season.

He said: "The biggest thing we need to improve is to find stabilization and avoid those big losses. We need to improve against the top four – that's probably the main thing. Against the lower teams, where we usually get the points, I think we can continue what we are doing but against the higher ones we should perform better."

There is no doubt about that. Last season Tottenham lost 6-0 and 5-1 to Man City and 5-0 and 4-0 to Liverpool.

Just how much better they perform will be important, not only for Tottenham's place in the league but their reputation amongst players, notably Eriksen himself.

With Denmark not qualifying for Brazil 2014, the 22-year-old was able to enjoy holidays in the Maldives and Dubai with his girlfriend Sabrina, where he didn't have to concern himself with another move. He said he enjoyed returning to a full pre-season with this club for the first time and has been 'impressed' with new boss Mauricio Pochettino. Nevertheless, it is clear that should his career trajectory continue it might be difficult for Tottenham to continue to keep hold of him next summer if they are unable to get into the Champions League.

Unusually, Eriksen is a player who has already experienced the emotions of the club game's greatest competition before stepping back into the Europa League with Spurs.

"The Champions League is great. Things are always much bigger, the ceremony, the press, the fans, it's a stage where everyone wants to play and hopefully we will be there next season."

One would imagine another standout season for Eriksen would put him next season's Champions League with or without Tottenham.




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