Tottenham supporters will spend this Summer hoping that Hugo Lloris doesn’t leave their club.
They will, however, also spend the Summer knowing that he’s quite entitled to do just that.
Currently, the Frenchman’s future seems likely to be determined by movements elsewhere. Real Madrid’s ailing icon, Iker Casillas, appears to be in his last days at the Santiago Bernabeu and if, as expected, Rafael Benitez makes David De Gea his first major signing, Manchester United are presumed to want to plug the resulting gap at Old Trafford with Lloris.
In his three years at White Hart Lane, the twenty-eight year-old has almost – one Gareth Bale inspired season aside – consistently been Tottenham’s best player. With his elastic agility and impossibly sharp reflexes, Lloris has been the one player whose contribution hasn’t wavered throughout the managerial back-and-forth and who has actually enhanced his reputation during that troubling two-year period.
Excellent for Andre Villas-Boas, Tim Sherwood and Mauricio Pochettino, he has frequently been the difference between three points and one, one and zero.
The truth, perhaps, is that his importance has been exaggerated by the fragility of his defence but, regardless, he has shown himself to be among the very best goalkeepers in the world and also proven that, regrettably, he belongs on a bigger stage than Spurs are able to give him.
That’s what makes this situation quite unusual. No Tottenham fan would actively welcome Lloris’ departure, but very few of them would fail to concede that the player is owed more from the club. At times, watching him has almost been uncomfortable. Lloris has so often been left exposed by his teammates and they have so frequently been reliant on him, that the crowd’s relationship with him has periodically bordered on the apologetic.
“Where would we be without Lloris?”
It’s a very pertinent question and one which has been posed at the end of games more often than anyone cares to remember.
Tottenham are no strangers to this situation because they, almost more than any other English club in recent years, are accustomed to having their talent ripped away. Michael Carrick, Dimitar Berbatov, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric have all been snatched away and in each instance their departure was accompanied by different degrees of acrimony.
With Lloris there’s none of that – instead, something more refreshing: if he is to leave in the coming weeks, he will likely be applauded through the door. It will be a moment tinged with sadness and it will likely prompt a wide-ranging discussion over the size of the club’s ambition, but only the most tribal supporter will direct their frustrations at Lloris himself.
How nice; what a welcome change of pace. Football bubbles with anger in 2015 and there’s very little which occurs within it which doesn’t produce a bilious social media response. Typically, when a player decides to leave a club for a better offer from a bigger side, the reaction is characterised by a steadfast refusal to accept the realities of the situation.
The player is traitorous.
He’s a money-grabber.
That’s the default response and, understandable though it may be, it becomes very tiring to hear. Where there is football, there is now always this narrow-minded perma-rage.
The hope with Lloris is that his departure is different. Having spent only thirty-four months in North London and having won nothing during that time, this part of his career will never be considered glorious. Regardless, though, there’s still a place for the recognition of genuine excellence and, hopefully, enough class still lingers in the game to allow Lloris to be figuratively carried out on the supporters’ shoulders.
He has absolutely earned that; what a privilege it has been to watch him and what a rich show-reel of highlights he has put together over these past few seasons. There has been no sulking, no melodrama, and no exhibition of entitlement from him, only an exemplary level of professionalism and a rich vein of form which seemed to last forever.
What a privilege it has been to watch part of his career firsthand.