Christian Eriksen has finally broken his silence. One week after completing his long-anticipated move out of Tottenham Hotspur and to Inter Milan in a deal worth just over £17m, Eriksen spoke exclusively to the BBC about his Tottenham tenure and his desire to leave.
It’s as open as we’ve ever heard Eriksen in an interview. We’ve seen plenty of interviews with the Danish playmaker before but he’s never been as clear about his wants or desires as he is here. Even so, there’s a sense that Christian is still guarding himself and even holding back a little bit in his answers the questions asked him.
The full interview is worth reading and digesting because it gives a look at Eriksen’s mindset over the past few months and even years. The clearest thing to emerge from Eriksen’s talk with the BBC is how the constant speculation about his Tottenham future wore at him.
“Yes. England, for the last few years, was very hectic. After what I said in the summer, it was just about ‘when is he going to leave?’ Every game it was ‘Is he leaving? Is he not leaving?’ Of course, a lot of people were speaking about it.
”Even the fans you see on the street were like ‘Thank you, goodbye and good luck’. But I was still there. It was a bit weird. In my head and for my body, it is good that I am in a new place and I can start again.”
At a certain level this is understandable. You never got the sense, even in the good years, that Eriksen viewed Tottenham as a destination club. He was open in the past about having a “secret plan” for his career, one that took him from Ajax hopefully to a point where he could play at the very top level of the sport.
For Eriksen, that seemed to be at a club like Real Madrid or Barcelona, and Tottenham could help him get there. But as we saw, neither of the Spanish giants ever showed a lot of interest, even when Eriksen was at his peak.
For professional footballers post-Bosman decision, a player’s contract can be a useful tool in helping determine their future at a club. It’s a way of evening out the balance between the power held by players and chairmen. From his comments, Eriksen decided that he was going to use his Tottenham contract as a means to effect the change that he wanted for himself going forward. So he purposefully let it wind down. To hear him say it, fan opinion of him started to erode mostly because he was honest about what he was doing.
“But that is the thing. If you have a short contract, you will be the black sheep. Of course, I did the interview. I was very honest. I felt I had to be honest. I didn’t want to hide like a lot of players do. Everyone is different. I was honest. I wanted to say it out loud.
”I did get the blame for a lot of stuff, for being the bad guy. I read I was the bad person in the changing room, that ever since I said I wanted to leave, it was no good me being there. To be honest, over the last few years, if anything came up, any player would think about leaving but I was the guy who said it publicly.”
Spurs fans would discount this, of course. From the fan perspective things really started to go south this season after Eriksen started putting in sub-standard performances and playing like he already had one foot out the door. That switch became most apparent after the Champions League final in May, when the entire team seemed to deflate in the wake of the historic loss to Liverpool in Madrid. Eriksen doesn’t dispute this, but neither does he admit that his performances suffered from the speculation and his desire to leave for “a new challenge.”
“The Champions League final was such a special moment. In the history of Tottenham, it was the first time. To be there was so nice and beautiful. But you lose and the next day it is the end of the world. That is how it goes.
”Afterwards it was difficult. People were still sad from the Champions League final when the season started. After you get a few bad results, then you go into a spiral you are not used to and it was difficult to come back up.
”But if you look at the Premier League, there is only one team that is really flying. All the others are trying to find their place, not only Tottenham. Some seasons are like that.”
”The history of the last five years is of Tottenham being where they have not been before for a long time. It was not a time to end but, in a way, it just came along which was something we didn’t expect and didn’t want.”
“I wouldn’t say it affected me. In England, when your contract is shorter, it is like you have to leave now. You are gone. In the end I played about 30 games that were like goodbye games. It was like ‘this might be his last game’, ‘this might be his last game’. It kept rolling.
”In my head I was ready to try something new but felt if nothing came, I was still ready to play for my place. I was not a different player in that sense. But I was in and out of the team. However, even if I had a four-year contract, this season would have been difficult after the Champions League final.”
There are many more quotes in the full article that I’d encourage you to read. In the end, nothing Eriksen said is probably going to change minds — those that are sympathetic to his desire to leave for a new challenge are likely to find vindication in Eriksen’s words. Those that are still angry about the nature of his departure won’t find anything convincing in here to change their minds.
But I do find it interesting to read him being so open about his own desires about his future. The one thing you can say about Eriksen over the past few years is that he’s always had a consistent view about what he wants to do with the rest of his career. He’s always been a model professional in his actions, even as he’s known for a while that he’s wanted to move on. Fans can argue and speculate (and no doubt will) about the nature of his performances in the end — whether those late match performances came from a place of hubris, or whether the constant attention from fans and questions about his future sent him into a negative spiral on the pitch as well as off it.
Personally, this is an interesting start but it’s not the end of the story. There’s still a lot more I’d like to know from him. Maybe with time we’ll get a fuller picture. For now, this is what we have.