Ramos: ‘Tottenham won a cup, everyone was happy. Then? Sacked’

(Getty)

(Getty)

“Who got married?” Juande Ramos looks back on his first days asTottenham Hotspur manager and cannot help but smile. When he and his staff walked into the dining room at Spurs’ training ground, they could hardly believe it. “Incredible,” he says, shaking his head. “It was like a wedding buffet. Cakes, pastries, sauces – and that was what they ate regularly.” The Spaniard leans forward and says softly, if a little mischievously: “Honestly, and I say this with no bitterness at all, there were players who were … well, fat.” Then he laughs and adds: “They were sedentary.”

And so Ramos, who faces Spurs as Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk manager in the Europa League on 20 February in Ukraine, began. “A lad who’s 22, 23 and has cash might think: ‘This guy’s not telling me what to eat.’ We trained not far from a McDonald’s and we’d see them in there eating hamburgers, drinking Coke but you explain and they understand. ‘This is your ideal weight, the percentage of body fat.’ I can’t go to their houses to watch their eating but we could train morning and afternoon and weigh them. If you’re not in shape, you don’t play and with work the team started improving.”

By the end of that 2007-08 season, Spurs had recovered in the league and won the Carling Cup, defeating Arsenal in the semi-finals and Chelsea in the final. It was the first trophy they had won for nine years, their second in 17; it is also the last trophy they won.

The fall from grace was swift. Whatever Ramos had, he lost. When the new season started, Spurs could not win: bottom with two points from eight games, it was their worst start. On 25 October 2008, Ramos was sacked. He had been there one day short of a year. He has not been back.

He has a point to prove and he can prove his point.

A Dnipro defeat may increase the conviction that Spurs were right to sack him, that he was never up to much, but Ramos responds: “Some fans might think that but football people know, they’re infinitely stronger. One Spurs player may be our annual budget. You can prepare players and Spurs could still score four. Why? Because they’re better. I can say: ‘Look out, [Aaron] Lennon’s quick on the outside.’ They know but, voom-voom and he’s gone. What are you going to do, chuck a rope round him?

“At White Hart Lane they’ll have good memories: the last title that Spurs won was with me, so I guess they’ll remember me fondly,” Ramos continues. “We hadn’t beaten Arsenal for years and we won 5-1. We won the Carling Cup, everyone’s really happy … ” And then? Ramos pauses. “I was sacked.

“My relationship with them was excellent,” Ramos counters. “You know who it was bad with? [David] Bentley.” Yet the collapse is inescapable. Something changed. What? “It’s quantifiable; you can explain it,” Ramos says by way of a prelude and then he begins, calmly but firmly. “The year before they’d signed Darren Bent for £17m. They sell Robbie Keane and [Dimitar] Berbatov because they want Bent to play, so they left us with Darren Bent and Frazier Campbell. Without strikers.”

And Roman Pavlyuchenko, surely? “Yes but he was new to England, didn’t understand and hardly played – and not just under me.

In my opinion, the problem isn’t selling him (Berbatov) and Keane, it’s not replacing them.

“I wanted Samuel Eto’o and David Villa. Eto’o wanted too much in wages. We negotiated with Villa, when he was one of the world’s best. Levy’s a hard, hard, hard negotiator and in the end it didn’t happen. So we were left with Bent and Campbell. We couldn’t beat anyone. We couldn’t have scored if we’d used a rainbow as the goalposts.”

He remembers: “We could only use King in important games: he didn’t train, which was a pity. He was so talented. Even at 50%, he was the leader but, sadly, you can’t fight for the titles like that.

“So, eight weeks into the season: ‘out!,'” Ramos continues, presenting Exhibit A, a “quantifiable fact”. “Then what happens? In December they spent £51m to rectify the mistake. [Jermain] Defoe, Keane, [Younès] Kaboul, [Wilson] Palacios. £51m! ‘No, the manager doesn’t understand … it’s the coach, that silly little Spaniard who hasn’t got a clue … I took the blame but they had to spend £51m to sort it out. The honourable thing Levy did was sack [director of football Damien] Comolli too: if he’d truly blamed the signings on me, Comolli would have continued but the whole structure changed. He knew but when it came to the [message to] the press and fans, it was the manager’s fault.”

“Spurs works as a business,” he says.

“That’s legitimate and I’m sure the model’s built with the right intentions. They think the economic model enables the sporting model to function but that’s not always true. Levy makes a £17m investment [Bent] but has two better players in the way. They have to remove obstacles so the investment plays. In economic terms, fine. In sporting terms it turned out to be a disaster.”

He explains: “Spurs spend a lot of money but only sign players who are 20 or 22 because they’re thinking of future sales. [Gareth] Bale, for example, or [Luka] Modric: I advised Spurs to sign him. He’s a great player but you still need patience; it doesn’t happen immediately. The idea is: sign players, see if they take off, sell and reinvest. Fine but are you trying to win money or titles? The criteria at Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea is that the sporting side is the priority. If City sign [Jesús] Navas or [Álvaro] Negredo, they don’t look at the player’s age; they look at his performances.

“Spurs aren’t going to win the league. Economically, it works well but in sporting terms maybe it needs retuning. You can’t demand something that doesn’t fit the reality.”

Source: Guardian

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