Opinion: A French connection

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Now that the transfer window has been flung wide open, Spurs fans will be expectantly refreshing their phones in the hope of discovering the next big signing.  Will it be a ‘Nelson/Saha’ or  ‘Van der Vaart’ type of window?  With Mr Levy at the helm we know that both options are possible, including dare I say it, another blank window.

In a recent interview Jose Mourinho seemed to dampen any enthusiasm around Spurs landing big players by claiming that he just needs time to work with the squad.  Unless this is a classic Mourinho bluff ,then best not to get our hopes up – but we will still all retain the faint hope up until the end of the window that something big may land.  It’s what Spurs fans do.  Gareth Bale anyone?

Talking of the Welshman, I have decided to take a look at the incoming transfers since the now infamous splurge in the 2013/14 season when 7 new players were purchased from the proceeds of the his sale.

A total of approaching £400m has been spent in the following 5 seasons.  While I acknowledge that this isn’t in the Manchester City league of spending, the figure may come as a surprise to some.  Obviously this doesn’t take into account outgoings – we know Levy is the master when it comes to net spends.

One thing that I did find fascinating is that approximately £130m of this figure has been spent on players plying their trade in the French First Division.  Perhaps not a total surprise when you consider that our ‘transfer team’ are supposed Lique Un experts.

Digging into this a little bit deeper, I have decided to take a look at the ‘runners and riders’ in more detail.

Firstly, and in chronological order you have the trio of Stambouli, N’Koudou and N’jie.  The fact I am looking at these as a collective is representative of their impact, or lack of it on the team.  The three players cost a combined £28m and recouped a disappointing £17.5m.  The fact that Levy was willing to make a loss speaks volumes of their performances.   As a point of record however it should be noted that Stambouli was actually sold for a £2.5m profit when making his return to France with PSG.

A total of 31 appearances with nothing in the goals for column really doesn’t represent any sort of value for money.

Then there is Lucas Moura.  A player who was much sought after when playing in Brazil and a player Spurs managed to pick up from PSG for a modern-day bargain price of £23 million (BBC).  For me, Moura has been a solid B+.  His Champions League performances alone repaying his transfer fee in one hit and guaranteeing him a place amongst the Spurs Legends.  He was very unlucky to not make the team for the final but that is another story.  On his day a player who is able to take players on (a rarity in the modern game) but sometimes lacking a final pass.  Although some feel his impact is greater from the bench there is no denying that under Mourinho he is playing with the commitment and heart that fans want to see.

Serge Aurier joined Spurs in the 2017/2018 season for a fee of £23m from PSG (BBC).  I have gone to print many times about the Ivorian’s inconsistent performances so won’t cover the same ground here.  However for a player with undoubted talent (mainly in attacking positions) his performances have been too error-strewn to be able to class this transfer as a success.

Finally we have the club record signing Tanguy Ndombele.  While it is ridiculously early to write off the Frenchman, and I won’t, I am worried that Jose Mourinho already has.  During the disappointing Christmas period Ndombele declared himself ‘not ready’ to face Brighton, was one of the better players against Norwich and limped off after 28 minutes in the defeat to Southampton.  This mini set of games a perfect representation of his time at Spurs with individual flashes of skill (the highlight perhaps the goal that sparked the comeback against Aston Villa) interspersed with fitness concerns.

Ndombele has undoubted quality and his displays for Lyon in the Champions League evidence of why Spurs wanted to break the bank for him, however Mourinho has made no secret of his concerns with somewhat damming comments in press conferences following the Brighton and Southampton games.  This coupled with an apparent touchline snub when leaving the field against Southampton suggest that he has much to do to win his manager round.  This reminds me very much of the Pogba / Mourinho situation where the Frenchman ultimately failed to convince the Portuguese Manager that he was worthy of a regular place in the team.

Ndombele signed for Spurs on the 2nd July 2019 so was afforded more of a pre-season than new signings are often given at the ‘Lane’ due to Levy’s insistence on late deals.  However we mustn’t forget that having just turned 23 he is trying to adapt to a new Country, new language and completely different league.  Hopefully Ndombele is given the time to prove his worth as I feel he could go on to become a World Class ‘game-changer’

The fee was a mammoth £55 million which I imagine included performance related add-ons.  At the moment however the fee looks like it will be £55m (Independent).

Our near rivals long-serving manager prided himself on plucking relatively unknown players from the French League and making them established Premier League players. Sadly, our forays into the French market haven’t been anywhere near as successful.

This may be due to a number of factors be it poor scouting, the vast differences in styles between the 2 leagues or simply because gambles haven’t paid off.  Either way on the face of it a change of direction is needed.  The signings of Ryan Sessegnon and Jack Clarke from Fulham and Leeds United respectively may be a hint that Spurs are looking to go back to their policy of recruiting good young English talent.

Having witnessed the debut of Japhet Tanganga v Juventus I heard a supporter mutter “if he had been a £20m signing from Europe we would be raving about him”

If Mourinho is true to his word that there are unlikely to be big name transfers then he could do a lot worse than secure the extension of the promising Centre Back who’s deal expires in 6 months-time.

While I am not naïve enough to claim that English players always succeed when making the step up, the success of James Maddison (undisclosed Coventry to Norwich), Andy Robertson (£8m Hull to Liverpool – BBC) as well as our own Dele Alli (£5m MK Dons to Spurs – BBC) suggest that there are some diamonds to be discovered in the lower leagues.  That’s without even mentioning Jamie Vardy’s rise from Non-League……

It is no secret that Spurs are on the lookout for a right back and have not replaced Tripper.  Interestingly Tripper himself was bought for less than £5m (Guardian), went on to become and England regular and transferred to Athletico Madrid.  Although a ‘cut-price’ fee of £22m was received (ESPN), the approximate £17m profit will have pleased Levy and perhaps provide further evidence of benefit of giving young English players a chance.

Spurs are supposedly linked to Ricardo Pereira, a 29 year-old at Leicester who would cost in the region of £30m (Express).  They have also been linked with West Bromwich Albion’s Nathan Ferguson, a 19 year old prospect (Mirror).  The direction that Spurs take with this transfer take may well provide a barometer for their strategy in the next few windows.  While Levy waits for his large investment in Lo Celso, Ndombele and Sessegnon to pay dividends, the latter looks the more likely target.

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  1. A balanced report,well written with a conclusion that I agree with.I support THFC but I detest ENIC and the assumption that Levy is a footballing genius.The arguement that we cannot throw money around is countered by the money that Liverpool splashed out on 2 players that have given the success they are enjoying.The backing the board gave Klopp has been rewarded 2 fold by the financial gains made.(to dare is to do).Finally the problem with Ndombele was foreseen by the French press prior to his transfer to us,he has a track record in Lyon as having injuries and attitude problems in training which overshadowed his abilities.

  2. Completely true as long as enic and Levi control spurs they will always be also rans as they are only business men with their only interest the bottom line


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