The bizarre situation that has seen Hugo Lloris become unhappy before even playing for Tottenham suggests Andre Villas-Boas hasn't learned from past mistakes at Chelsea, and if he is not careful the stigma of this poor man-management could have serious repercussions for his career.
I don't think I have ever heard of a situation where a player has been discontent so quickly after signing. I'm sure there are cases where a player has joined a club and realised it is not what they wanted, but this is a whole different scenario: he is unhappy because of some comments his manager has made and he hasn't even put on a Spurs shirt yet.
The best way to describe it is that Villas-Boas was clumsy. He was trying to protect Brad Friedel as well as motivate Lloris ahead of his arrival but saying that Friedel is the No. 10 has come out the wrong way. Villas-Boas has a tendency to put his foot in it, but it is still a very strange situation.
His intention was perfectly legitimate, though such motivational techniques are less common now. Years ago, when I was playing at Liverpool, there were no guarantees for anyone. You'd sign a player, a fine player, but they would have to fight to earn their place in the team. In the modern game it is a more risky tactic and man management is a more subtle art. He still has a lot to learn in that respect.
Already Villas-Boas has developed quite a reputation for this sort of thing. Even before annoying Lloris he handled the Michael Dawson situation badly by telling him he was part of his plans, then trying to sell him to QPR and finally bringing him back into the fold when a deal could not be reached.
Villas-Boas clearly has a tendency to make up his mind very quickly about players. He doesn't hang about and it was the same at Chelsea. During his time at Stamford Bridge there were plenty of stories about unhappy players and I think he upset most of them at one time or another. He had the situation with Alex and Nicolas Anelka when they found themselves training with the reserves, while his determination to put players like Frank Lampard on the bench also saw him make enemies.
History is repeating itself at Tottenham now: he is changing the squad very quickly and trying to impose his own brand of football, but possibly at the cost of team harmony. The difference between him and his former mentor Jose Mourinho is that Mourinho immediately gets the players onside and makes them feel part of the group. Villas-Boas leaves players hanging and leaves it up to them to forge relationships.
The Chelsea experience wasn't wholly of his own doing and I think the mandate to change, and change quickly, came from the top. He was backed to be brave, even if it turned out badly. But it is different at Spurs: they don't need a big overhaul. The squad isn't all that big anyway and all he had to do was add one or two and carry on the good work that Harry did. But he thinks the way forward is to bulldoze his way into the club, even if he makes enemies along the way.
It is also troubling for Villas-Boas that he has become a bit of an easy target for the press. His touchline crouching has become a bit of a regular joke while the papers have even compared him to David Brent. He isn't anywhere near as bad as Christian Gross yet, but when you become a figure of fun it can become dangerous. He doesn't deserve that at this point.
Nor does he deserve the abuse that has come from the stands, with Tottenham fans booing the team off twice already this season. That is far too premature and you cannot hold Villas-Boas responsible for everything that has happened this season. Daniel Levy is the one who failed to get the club ready as he was busy trying to strike hard bargains, but the season doesn't begin on September 1.
Still, it does feel like a long time now that Villas-Boas had that successful season at Porto. He is still living off it and at some stage he has to produce something else. Villas-Boas needs to make a success of his time at Spurs because if he fails then he will struggle to get another big job.
At Porto we thought we had a new Mourinho on our hands, and maybe we do. Maybe he will prove us all wrong. But this challenge ahead of him at Spurs is massive. He hasn't lost all credibility but it is heading towards that way and he needs to quickly arrest the trend. I'm not sure even he knows quite how big this is. If he makes a mess of things at Spurs, this could be the end of him as a top-class manager.
- Hugo Lloris