Even as Tottenham Hotspur ended the Premier League season agonisingly short of their rivals and out of the Champions League places once again, there was hope around White Hart Lane that they were in a good position to come back stronger next year.
Much of this hinged on Gareth Bale, whose phenomenal year ended with 21 Premier League goals and every player of the year award going. Interest was expected from the biggest clubs in the world, but Spurs were reasonably confident of keeping their star man.
However as the weeks have gone by, more and more doubt has crept in at Spurs, with reported world record bids being readied for Bale, and the worries have increased with rumours that teams are also interested in manager Andre Villas-Boas.
Villas-Boas has still not convinced everyone in England of his quality, but most Spurs fans would agree that he has done a fine job in his first year at White Hart Lane, steering a team shorn of several key players to within a whisker of a Champions League place and their highest ever Premier League points total.
He has developed a close relationship with the players, notably Bale, and now seems integral to the way the club hopes to develop over the next few years. All of Spurs’ plans this summer seemed to be angled towards setting up the club to Villas-Boas’ liking, including the likely arrival of Franco Baldini as director of football.
Spurs are still hopeful of keeping both men, but if one were to go, who would it be worse to lose? Bale is an unbelievably good player, and undoubtedly the star of the side, but is he more replaceable than a manager who has started to shape the club and the team in his image?
In my opinion, whilst Spurs could not hope to replace Bale given their standing in world football, losing Villas-Boas would be more damaging for the club, as it would push Tottenham Hotspur back to square one, and ensure another transitional season where they could fall further behind the top clubs in the Premier League.
Spurs fans, what do you think? Who would be the bigger loss for Spurs this summer, Bale or Villas-Boas?
image: © James Boyes