This is going to be painful to type. For all Spurs fans there are a number of difficult issues to confront at the end of a rollercoaster season: was fourth place an under- or overachievement? Will Levy get the cheque book out? Can the club afford to allow another Modric saga to drag on throughout the summer? Some are even debating whether Harry deserves another season to push the team forward.
However, for me one issue looms over all else: what to do about Ledders.
On the one hand, the club captain’s dedication and heroic performances in the shirt since his debut against Liverpool in 1999 (as a left-back… replacing Stephen Clemence!) grant him more leeway than any other recent player when it comes to making his own decision about his future. He rightly holds iconic status at Spurs. A top-class player from the youth set-up who didn’t become Judas.
On the other hand, his waning contributions to the side have been all too apparent this season. It would be crass to present a litany of examples of this. Suffice to say it is inconceivable that the Ledley King of previous seasons would have been turned by an opposing player the way he was (decisively) by Balotelli at the end of the 3-2 defeat to Man City in January. Like I said, this is painful to type.
For five seasons he has miraculously managed the situation with his knee. Ledley is a thoroughbred, but if he was racehorse then he’d have been put out to stud by now. He has just undergone another round of knee surgery to prolong his career. This by no means suggests though that another season is guaranteed. Talks over a new contract have yet to take place and Levy is currently busy negotiating with Ajax over the transfer of another central defender; Jan Vertonghen.
As you can now tell, I am leaning towards gently ushering the out-of-contract 31 year old towards retirement. An argument can be made that it’s the humane thing to do for all concerned. For Ledley himself, another season or two placing his body under the rigours of top-level football could do serious damage to his long-term mobility. For the fans, it is better to remember the Rolls-Royce version of our Dear Leader before those memories are displaced by less rosy images.
Too few sportsmen and women quit while they’re ahead. In the world of boxing Joe Calzaghe will be remembered as a true great who bowed out at the top of his game. This list of boxers who hung on past their prime is depressingly long.
Give Ledley a coaching role so he can instil his defensive tactical acumen on the next generation. Organise a testimonial against a European heavyweight. Most of all, allow him to present it as his decision to call it a day, he deserves as much.