Remember when Osvaldo Ardiles won the World Cup with Argentina and moved to Spurs? Times really were different, I tells ya!
Before I go on and you get all ‘that’s not his name’ at me, I completely get that it’s our domestic duty to Anglicise names as much as we can so that they’re translatable to our mainstream audience. As such, Tottenham fans would refer to the Argentine magician as ‘Ossie Ardiles’ – with the presumption that ‘Osvaldo’ holds far too many syllables to be comprehendible throughout North London. But when you have a name as majestic as Osvaldo Cesar Ardiles … I reckon that should be preserved!
But semantics aside, I suppose the fact that he was given such an endearing ‘nickname’ only serves to prove the point as to how well loved he was during his tenure at White Hart Lane. Indeed, spending the lion’s share of your prime years at a club (of which many perceive to be of a lower pay-grade and quality than you are), is only ever going to maintain a positive affection from the fans – even if you only end up matching your expectations every now and again. But then that’s the question: why would Osvaldo Ardiles (of all clubs) … choose Spurs?!
This is not intended with any disrespect to Tottenham, but even today, their status is only slowly creeping up to those above them – where the best players in the world are just more likely to sign for a Manchester United or a Liverpool, than they are for the Lilywhites. Back then, this was an even greater issue – with the gulf between these types of clubs growing every second. But remember, football is an emotional game – and Tottenham possessed just the right qualities to force through this kind of deal.
Sometimes, it’s not just about ‘being the bigger club’ but ultimately, more about what you’re able to offer to your new employees. In more natural settings, that would be in the form of tax allowance, salary … and maybe even a nice bin to shove into the corner of your desk space. In the unnatural setting of a football career, it’s more about their role within the club, the vision of their new employers, and various other promises / ‘considerations’ that can entice even the most unattainable of players into the most attainable of surroundings.
This was a concept that Tottenham’s aspirational manager Keith Burkinshaw knew very well indeed, for he approached the star-studded Osvaldo Ardiles with an offer he simple couldn’t refuse when compared to whatever else he was being promised by the ‘bigger clubs’. Namely, Burkinshaw proposed that Ardiles would become the primary focal point for Spurs’ attacking drive – thereby being the team’s star commodity, as opposed to one of a number of key attributes for other teams. Then, he went even more radical by asking one of Osvaldo’s buddies to tag along.
A completely idiosyncratic aspect of Tottenham’s bid was to include fellow compatriot Ricardo Villa in the deal. As we know, it’s difficult for trans-Atlantic players to come over to somewhere as rough-and-ready as England (let alone the elder First Division), and so Burkinshaw coaxed his superiors to offer a fair wage to both Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa to come to White Hart Lane in the summer of 1978. Needless to say, it went very well for the pair of them – and shows that there’s actually some method to the madness of treating players like human beings; rather than livestock ordered in to entertain you and nothing more. Bit much, but you get it!