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André Villas-Boas praises the impact of Tottenham's Jermain Defoe

André Villas-Boas may be gradually stepping up the pace of change at Tottenham Hotspur but he is quick to emphasise the importance of one particular face from the past.

Before the manager's summer arrival at White Hart Lane, Jermain Defoe had become increasingly accustomed to warming the substitutes' bench but Villas-Boas appears to have breathed so much new life into the England striker's career that he seems a player transformed.

"Jermain is looking extremely happy," said Villas-Boas, whose side travel to Manchester United on Saturday. "For a striker, goals are absolutely decisive and Jermain has four in the Premier League so he is not far off being the league's top scorer. But he has been creating so much [as well] that I think he has been immense for the team."

Villas-Boas's decision to offer the 29-year-old a new three-year contract rather than, as had been expected, sell him at the first opportunity, is paying dividends. "He is getting continuous opportunities that maybe he didn't have in the past," said Harry Redknapp's successor.

"We have to be very grateful for what he has been doing for the team. We have to respect the fact hat he keeps motivating himself for this club. Now he is gaining confidence from playing from the start. He is performing well. His movement and his motivation are fantastic.

"In the summer we really wanted to keep him here and that is why we spoke to his agent and to the chairman [Daniel Levy] regarding his contract renewal. At the moment we are extremely happy with what he is doing. I am sure there is an impact on how he feels about himself."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Louise Taylor, for guardian.co.uk on Friday 28th September 2012 23.03 Europe/London

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