is perhaps one of the greatest losses to our club that having been signed
by Christian Gross, the Algerian captain, Moussa Saib, could be fitted
into the Tottenham side no more than three times from the start and ten
more times from the bench.
in from Valencia, where he had been playing in their side during the one
season he was there and came with a reputation for being a good passer of
the ball and the type of player who would be an asset to the way Tottenham
would like to play.
good international experience and having played on the continent with
Auxerre before moving to Spain, he was intended to bring some much needed
creativity to the Spurs side that had been struggling under Gerry Francis
and taken on by Gross in an attempt to keep them in the Premiership.
At only £2.3 million, he seemed to be a fairly reasonably priced
purchase and with games running out, someone was needed to supply
ammunition for Klinsmann and Ferdinand up front.
Arriving in February, he made his debut against Bolton, coming on
from the bench in a 1-0 win and was introduced the same way in the next
match against Leeds. Saib’s
first start was away to Crystal Palace.
This ended in a 3-1 win for Spurs, with Saib featuring strongly and
his passing was a revelation. Not
an all action midfielder, but he moved so smoothly with the ball whether
running with it or passing it on, there was a fluid movement that was very
easy on the eye.
suffered when George Graham came into the manager’s office and when he
flew off to join up with the Algeria squad while claiming not to be fit
enough to play for Spurs, it was the beginning of the end for Moussa.
The player had undergone a back operation at the end of 1998 and
two months later, in January 1999, he played two reserve matches only for
the new manager, who had arrived while he was injured, to tell him he was
not fit enough to play for Algeria.
He never really made it back into the first team picture … quite
literally, as he didn’t get included in the team photo for season
1999-2000. Graham’s nickname of “Gadaffi” probably made his
approach clear to Saib and his disciplinarian manner left Saib out of the
side, with little chance of breaking back in.
The main example of this was in not allowing Saib to don tracksuit
bottoms in training when it was cold, because it was his rule that players
were not allowed to wear them before December.
One would have thought that our injury list was long enough anyway
without players risking pulls and strains because they are not warm enough
time when GG was turning Tottenham into a workmanlike side with little to
get excited about, Moussa would never have fitted the ideal player the
former Gooner boss would have considered for the line-up. While
it is no compensation, Saib was not the first or last player that Graham
“out-ed” because of the flair side of their game. The midfielder was not allowed to train with the first team
or play for the reserves.
little option other than to move on, the Algerian took a six month loan
move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr in 2000 and featured for them in the
World Club Championships. Some
difference to playing in front of a handful of fans at Spurs reserve games
… he was now showing what he could do in front of a handful of neutral
fans in Brazil. He managed
one goal in the tournament, five minutes from time against Raja Casablanca
to give them their only win in South America.
The transfer for £640,000 was agreed, but his stay didn’t last
too long before he was on the move back to his previous employer Auxerre
after about four months, before leaving to play for Monaco.
Then he was loaned out to side Lorient, fighting to prevent
relegation from the French first division, from January 2001 until the end
of that season.
is still at Monaco, although not a first choice player there. A look at his club record shows that he has not stayed
anywhere very long and one might question why that is, but his lack of
appreciation of the defensive side of his game appears to be a constant
concern to fans of the clubs he signed for.
But if you have the right players around you, such matters are not
of great import. What might
have worried Spurs fans was his interview in a well-known Sunday tabloid
on his signing, when he said he had come to London for the money and the
pretty women. Did this imply that his focus was not going to be totally on
the game or was it just that he was amazed at the culture he found himself
in. While he may have been
sold a different view of what he came to experience at White Hart Lane,
especially when the new manager was brought in, he showed that he could
have been good for Tottenham if he had continued to show the effortless
movement of the ball from his midfield position.
for some, the fact that he looked effortless set them against him.