Lloris: Spurs catching up on top three
Hugo Lloris has acknowledged Tottenham Hotspur cannot yet compete with the Premier League's elite, but insisted Andre Villas-Boas' men are catching up.
Speaking to French radio station RTL, Lloris, 26, conceded the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea, the three teams who head fourth-placed Spurs in the table, remain superior to his side. However, he added that the squad being fashioned at White Hart Lane were closing the gap.
"Today, there's United, City and Chelsea who are a cut above, and who have more financial means. But Tottenham is just behind," the France captain told former French international-turned-radio-host, Bixente Lizarazu. "The club has been trying to establish itself in the top four for some years now. For the minute, the season has been promising, but the hardest part is yet to come because there are still a number of key matches to be played and we'll have to be ready for that. For the moment, we're well-placed, though we're not beyond a possible charge by Arsenal."
While Spurs' north London rivals are within touching distance, four points back in fifth, Villas-Boas' men are a mere point adrift of Chelsea in third, though they have to travel to Stamford Bridge in April. While that match will have a big say in deciding whether or not they qualify for next season's Champions League, this week Spurs will hope to further their Europa League ambitions with the first leg of their last-32 tie with Lyon, the club Lloris left last summer.
"I've turned that page, but there's still affection with certain players and some of the technical staff. It's never easy. I don't know if I'll be on the pitch, the coach will make a choice. It'll be special whatever. I spent a lot of time there and I'm still attached to the club," Lloris said, before explaining his decision to move to Spurs, a switch that - given his elevated status in France - was seen as being beneath him.
"There are very few opportunities, because the goalkeepers are already established at the big clubs. I had four years at Lyon, four years in which I flourished, improved. The club gave me the chance to play in the Champions League and the French national side, but I needed a new challenge. For me, Tottenham had everything to help me continue improving."
Opportunities to do that initially proved limited, however, as Villas-Boas consigned his new signing to the bench. Having been promised he was arriving in England as number one, Lloris revealed his frustration at spending seven of his first eight Premier League matches watching Brad Friedel handed the starting role.
"I have my personality, my character, and there were times when I was boiling up inside, but that's normal as we're competitors and want to be out there on the pitch. It was a little bit difficult, but I didn't just sit there and take it, I got down to work be it in training or when I had the chance to play, notably in the Europa League, and things just happened naturally after that."
He added: "Things were very clear, that I was coming to Tottenham as the number one. But the manager made a decision at the start, and then made a different one a few weeks later. The negotiations [over the move] were with the president, but it was also the choice of the coach. I also had talks with him during that time. It's not easy, because I came in after the start of the season, and he was already under pressure because the results were not good at that point in time. It's the sort of situation which helps you grow, it's a personal challenge."
The Nice-born 'keeper revealed he had told Lyon of his desire to move to Spurs before the start of the Ligue 1 season, but no move materialised. Lloris even appeared twice in the French top flight before Spurs swooped for him on deadline day, and he conceded his 11th-hour arrival had been at the heart of his trying start to life in England.
"That was my mistake, coming into a team after the start of the season. I don't regret anything. They're the stages of a career. You have to take your opportunities, and above all find yourself back on the pitch as soon as possible," Lloris said, before denying there was a feud between himself and Friedel, who had publicly declared his intention to battle to hold on to the position.
"I tried to step back from all that, I wanted to remain discrete. I didn't want to get into a debate. The situation was going to be sorted out on the pitch, and that's what happened. There's never been a problem between us. There's always been a kind of respect, and even more so today."