Remembering Edgar Davids
The reward for Spurs dominating a Champions League group featuring Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund? A round of 16 meeting with one of last year’s finalists, of course. The strongest team in Italy and divine European royalty.
A challenging tie, no question. But not one we can grieve over too much. Spurs are relative noobs to continental football’s Big Show and there’s always a period of hazing for the uninitiated.
Man City endured years of bum draws before their coefficient ranking finally began to shape up. They hit Barcelona in successive seasons until things eased off with a first round knockout with Dyano Kiev in 2015/16. They’ll feel like they’ve earned Basel this time around.
Juventus is a stern examination of our powers, but not unfitting for a team who’ve negotiated a Champions League group just twice in their history.
Indeed, Mauricio Pochettino might argue that they’ve already faced more daunting opposition in Europe this season and come out unscathed. If Spurs can perform at the Bernabeu, they can certainly get a result in Turin.
I guess the big question that’s been on everyone’s mind, ever since Juventus and Tottenham’s names were pulled from their respective UEFA-brand salad bowls:
Who will Edgar Davids be supporting?
Only twice in my lifetime have Spurs signed a player I’d call a ready-made superstar. Someone with world renowned status and a trophy collection to match their ungodly talents. Players I’d watched in World Cups and Champions League finals, title deciders— only able to dream that they might turn up at the club I support.
The first was Jurgen Klinsmann; the second, Edgar Davids. Rafael van der Vaart is close to being a third.
During the mid-to-late 90s, Clarence Seedorf and Edgar Davids were among my favourite players in world football. Maybe it was their flat-out refusal to sign for a second-rate club. Nothing but AAA-rated for Edgar and Clarence.
Between them, they appeared to be on a mission to represent every elite European side before they retired: both Milan clubs, Real, Barcelona, Ajax, and our new friends, Juventus. It’s little wonder their silverware haul is so impressive. Seedorf alone won four Champions League titles at three different clubs.
Perhaps the reason I enjoyed watching them, was that it was the 90s and dreadlocks were inescapably cool. Regi Blinker holds an unwarranted place in my heart for the simple grounds that his hair looked great when he ran. Like a footballing Predator, gliding through the jungle.
Equally as superficial, I liked Davids—possibly more than his Dutch counterpart, Seedorf (and Regi Blinker)— because of his stylish protective goggles, which he wore for medical reasons. Glaucoma. Which doesn’t sound quite as cool; when you realise your hero has the same health worries as your nan.
Silk and steel
But what I think I appreciated most about Davids during that era, was that he was, along with Roy Keane, the finest example of a complete midfielder. Just as capable of dispensing a ferocious slide tackle as he was a Marseille Roulette.
Louis van Gaal might’ve dubbed him The Pitbull, but there was much more to his game than dogged marking and thunderous challenges. You’ve all seen that Nike advert from 1996, I’m sure.
Davids arrived at Spurs aged 32, with his best years behind him. But lacking none of the gusto or star quality that made him such a fan favourite at Juventus and Ajax. In an inexperienced but talented squad, the Dutchman was a genuine force of nature. ‘Edgar coming in has given us a huge boost,’ admitted Michael Carrick during the 2005 preseason. A born winner who helped push a gifted young squad onto better things.
Oh how Mauricio Pochettino could do with an Edgar Davids now.