Joe Jordon, Tottenham Hotspur’s assistant manager, is not the only person to have perennial “beef” with the bearded and occasional barbaric AC Milan captain Gennaro Gattuso. Like Gattuso on Jordon, the Spurs midfielder Sandro must have fancied grabbing the 33-year-old by the throat rather than the hand after the final whistle at the San Siro back in February. For despite Sandro’s courageous display on the pitch, it was the Italian’s childish petulance off it that so cruelly stole the headlines.
Injuries to Luka Modric, Tom Huddlestone and Jermaine Jenas, gave Sandro the chance to shine in Europe’s biggest competition in Milan, albeit in an untried and untested central midfield partnership with the combative Wilson Palacios. Neither were overawed by the occasion, and despite Palacios being his combative best, it was the young Brazilian who really caught the eye, using an admirable dose of intelligence and grit to halt any Milan advances while also readily setting up new ones for his own team. A single goal by Peter Croach was enough to send the English club back home 1-0 up.
While most spectators were anticipating a baptism of fire for the South American – how wrong were we? – his manager Redknapp had plenty of faith in the youngster’s ability to make an impact in such a match. Sandro, on his Champions League debut, outshone a gifted yet ageing AC Milan midfield, none more so than a frustrated Gattuso whose histrionics overshadowed the 22-year-old’s man of the match performance.
Speaking after finally ending a year-long pursuit of Sandro after agreeing a fee that could rise to £9 million with his former club Internaciol, Redknapp beamed: ““He is an outstanding young player. He is the verge of the Brazilian team, he has already played for Brazil and captained the U18s, 19s and 21s.
“He is strong and he looks a very, very good player so I am looking forward to getting him here.”
Judging by his footballing credentials, Redknapp had every right to purr with delight at the deal. Sandro had already captained a Brazil u-20s to glory at the 2009 South American Youth Championships in Venezuela, before making his full international debut in September 2009 coming off the bench in a qualifier against Chile.
But for those thinking this was an average player’s five minutes of football fame, think again. In the return leg at White Hart Lane, Sandro, as dominant in the middle of the park as he was in the away leg, was the catalyst to the Londoners’ sturdy stalemate, a winning result if ever there was for a draw as it saw them progress into the quarter-finals at the very first attempt.
Yet more options can sometimes cause more problems. Sod’s law gives Harry Redknapp a section headache as the former Internacional player is now starting to produce similar displays in the Premier League. And with Modric and Jenas now fully fit, and Tom Huddlestone back in full training, it would take a very brave, perhaps silly, manager to break up a so far winning formula.