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Former Gunner Gallas relishing life at Tottenham
By Mike Collett in London
If things had turned out differently, William Gallas could well have been facing Champions League heartache with Arsenal in Barcelona rather than glory with their arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur this week.
The 33-year-old France midfielder is one of only a handful of players down the years to have moved across the North London divide — and is absolutely delighted he did.
After a naturally hesitant baptism at his new club at the start of the season, Gallas has played a huge part in Spurs success and played a vital role in their goalless last-16 second leg draw with AC Milan on Wednesday that put Spurs into the quarter-finals with a 1-0 m aggregate victory.
With 26 minutes played he saved a certain Milan goal with a goalline clearance and along with skipper Michael Dawson was at the heart of a defensive masterclass that echoed that of Liverpool or Arsenal themselves in their glory years.
Gallas is unique in that he is the only man ever to have played first team football for London rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham and with 88 UEFA club appearances to his name, is the most experienced European campaigner at Spurs.
He believes he has now shown Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger, and anyone else who doubted him, that he is still at the top of his game.
“When I signed, I just wanted to play football and show who I am,” he told reporters after the delirious, drained crowd had left White Hart Lane.
“Everybody judged me because I didn’t have a good World Cup last year I was injured, and I was criticised, but that’s football.
“If I left Arsenal, it was for some reason. I won’t say why now, maybe later. But the most important thing for me was to stay in London for my family and to play in the Champions League and Tottenham gave me that opportunity.
“I’m pleased we’ve qualified, I don’t think about Arsenal. It was difficult for them, they played against the best team in the world. But now I am playing for Spurs, I am very happy.
“The most important thing in the group was to finish on top so we didn’t play a big team like Barcelona. Maybe that makes a difference winning the group.”
Spurs have won over the neutrals with their performances in this, their debut Champions League season, and after scoring 18 goals in the group stage, have advanced to the last eight
showing a different side to their game.
They still have a long way to go before daring to think about the final which is in London at Wembley on May 28. Gallas failed to reach the Champions League final with either Chelsea
or Arsenal, but could he do that with Spurs ?
“Nobody knows how far we can go, not even us. We know we have the quality to beat any team but we understand the Champions League is not easy. You have to be focused for 90 minutes like that.
“It was important we qualified because all the players now know we have the quality so we are strong. Everybody feels the group is very strong. It’s good for the future, its good for Tottenham.”
Whether or not his stay at Spurs will last beyond this season is not yet certain, but there is no doubt the former Arsenal man is helping to lay some solid foundations for what could be a new golden future for Tottenham, who may, after more than a decade be finally emerging from Arsenal’s shadow.
KEN FERRIS assisted in this story
Picture: Tottenham Hotspur’s William Gallas smiles during a news conference at San Siro stadium in Milan, February 14, 2011. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
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