Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp admits he has serious concerns over Rafael van der Vaart's long-term fitness and insists he will continue substituting the forward despite his protestations.
Premier League managers this week voted the Dutchman as the best buy of the season thanks to an impressive debut year in English football that has seen him bag 12 goals since his £8 million move from Real Madrid.
Van der Vaart, 28, has provided several assists and formed a strong partnership with Peter Crouch, but he has seemed off the pace recently - partly due to a calf injury.
Redknapp vented his anger at the forward recently after he stormed down the tunnel after being substituted against West Ham. Van der Vaart, who has only completed eight matches this year, admitted last week that he was annoyed at being substituted so often but Redknapp insists he is only doing it for his own good.
"His fitness is a problem for him. He tires in games at times and you pick up injuries when you're tired,'' Redknapp said. "I take him off because I feel he is looking tired and it's my decision at the end of the day what I do. If I decide to sub him, I'll sub him. That's why I have played him for 60 minutes or 70 minutes. Can he play 90 minutes tomorrow and then play 90 on Tuesday? I will have to look at him. I don't want to over-do it with him and leave him struggling for Tuesday.''
Redknapp will speak to Van der Vaart before Saturday's game against Wigan to remind him that he was not happy with the way he left the pitch in the club's last two games against West Ham and Milan.
"I haven't spoken to him about it but I will do,'' Redknapp added. "I don't like anyone walking down the tunnel, whether it's him or anyone else. I think players should sit on the bench and watch their team play the game together. That's how I've always seen it and that's how it want it here.''
Redknapp has major injury worries ahead of Tuesday's trip to Van der Vaart's former club Real Madrid. Gareth Bale and William Gallas are both serious doubts for Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Bernabeu with hamstring and knee injuries respectively. Gallas in particular appears to be losing his fitness battle, according to Redknapp, who denied that he was playing mind games ahead of what is arguably the biggest fixture in the club's history.
"As soon as William kicked the ball this morning, he collapsed in pain, so he's no good,'' Redknapp said. "He has had three scans - two this week - because every time he goes to kick a ball, he can't strike it.
"We will shut him down until Monday now. He was out there today but he was way off. As soon as he went to kick a ball he collapsed in pain so I'm not kidding anyone about him. Gareth isn't travelling with us to Wigan tomorrow. I thought, 'Should I put him on the bench for the last 20 minutes and bring him on if I need him' but the doctors warned me that if he tore his hamstring then he would be out for six or seven weeks.''
Gallas' injury is of particular concern to Redknapp given that he is already without centre-halves Jonathan Woodgate, Younes Kaboul and Ledley King. It is also reported that right-back Alan Hutton will be out for a month with a knee injury.
One crumb of comfort for Spurs is that Tom Huddlestone could make his return from a five-month ankle injury layoff in Saturday's Premier League game against Wigan.
Redknapp on Friday played down speculation linking Spurs with summer moves for Ipswich striker Connor Wickham and Germany hitman Miroslav Klose.
"Klose is a good player but we haven't made any enquiries for him at all,'' Redknapp said. "I don't think we made an offer for Connor Wickham. I think they're talking about £10 million for him. I wouldn't see us spending £10 million on him.''