It may just be the time of year, but Tottenham supporters will have noted Danny Rose’s reappearance in gossip columns. Manchester United are in the market for a new left-back and Jose Mourinho, armed with the usual propesterous transfer budget, is supposedly keen.
So the saga begins again.
Three months ago, Rose’s world was different. He may not have kicked a ball in anger for six months at the time of his interview with The Sun, but his reputation was still guarded by the memory of his good form. Before his ankle difficulties, Rose had been playing the best football of his career and, quite rightly, was considered both England’s first-choice in his position and among the very best full-backs in the Premier League.
As a consequence, his reintegration has been far easier than it might have been. Performance matters more than almost anything to most supporters so, hopeful that he could return to the same level of performance, the Spurs crowd has been very forgiving. Considering the egregiousness of that tabloid exposé, Rose has been treated generously.
What’s becoming clear, though, is that there’s little comparison to be made between the player who limped off against Sunderland and the one who has returned in his place. Rose has re-emerged looking overly-muscular, clumsy, and without the burst of five-yard acceleration which underpined his game. True, overcoming long-term injury often involves a rehabilitation stage which can look unconvincing, but then – equally – neither are there any guarantees that such a struggle will always lead to a full recovery. Injuries destroy fitness, of course, but also self-belief and rhythm – and reclaiming those commodities is typically a lengthy process, generally taking many months and requiring a full pre-season program.
What, then, has been the long-term consequence of his injury and what is a realistic prognosis for the future. Allowing Rose to join a Manchester United-type clubs feels like the kind of decision which might look silly for a year, but would actually seem smart for many years after that.
Rose will turn 28 next July and while there’s no basis for saying that he has already reached and fallen away from his apex, the timescales should be concerning for Tottenham. They’re particularly relevant here, too, because so much of the player’s game is powered by his athleticism. He might well be proficient technically, but without his speed and stamina his worth would dramatically decline – especially to Mauricio Pochettino, who places such an emphasis on width from deep. What, then, has been the long-term consequence of his injury and what is a realistic prognosis for the future. Allowing Rose to join a Manchester United-type clubs feels like the kind of decision which might look silly for a season, but would actually seem smart for many years after that.
Obviously, the temptation is to assess him through the prism of his betrayal. To see him as a dressing-room problem whose relationship with his manager has evidently cooled. No doubt, there are some Spurs supporters who would enjoy the catharsis of a sale, even if it did strengthen a top-six rival.
But that’s the wrong approach. If the rumours are to be believed and Rose’s value remains somewhere close to the £50m region, the interest in him should be welcomed. On current form, he is a second-choice player (behind Ben Davies). More starkly, he is a second-choice player for a team who have pressing needs in positions he doesn’t play. If Tottenham’s recent difficulties haven proven anything, it’s that they are sorely lacking attacking diversity; Pochettino desperately needs another attacking-midfield option and could certainly also do with someone direct, skillful and quick at the top of the pitch.
There’s also a case for saying that, while having been a strength in the past, the policy of full-back rotation has become harmful. Rather than healthy competition between the various players on both sides of the pitch, there now seems to be a general acceptance that all of them, irrespective of performance, will split time on the field. The depth may be good, but the dynamic is not; there are no understudies pushing for selection, no incumbents focused by a threat from below. The preferable alternative is a return to the previous system of starters and back-ups, not least because it would bring an incentivisation which doesn’t currently exist. Rediscovering that balance with the current group of players, given their ages, would seem extremely difficult.
Individually, none of those reasons alone make a strong case for Danny Rose’s departure. Together, though, they build a context within which £50m sounds like an awful lot of money and where the principle of surrendering to his self-interest isn’t nearly as important as it once was.