Following Villarreal’s run to the Champions League semi-final, Tottenham loanee Giovani Lo Celso has looked unrecognisable to the man who departed N17 in January, leaving fans wondering what’s in store for his future at Spurs?
When Lo Celso joined Tottenham in the summer of 2019 (Sky Sports), expectations were high, as it seemed one of Europe’s hottest midfield talents was arriving in North London.
Fast forward almost three years, and just 84 appearances and 14 goal contributions later (Transfermarkt), unfortunately, his Spurs career so far has been nothing short of underwhelming.
In his one season at Real Betis, Lo Celso appeared 45 times, producing an impressive return of 16 goals and six assists from midfield, adding to a decent return of 15 goals contributions in 54 games from PSG from predominantly substitute appearances.
Through little fault of his own, Lo Celso’s Spurs career has never really got started, as across his two and a half seasons in North London, he has been sidelined through injury or quarantine 51 times, meaning somewhat unfairly, he has never had a consistent run as a first-team starter (TransferMarkt).
While Antonio Conte and Lo Celso’s time together was brief, it could be telling, as the decision to allow the Argentine to depart on loan mid-season (Cesar Luis Merlo) raises serious questions over his future at Spurs.
So, what happens next season?
Since joining Villareal, Lo Celso has certainly impressed, putting in several big performances in the Yellow Submarine’s run to the Champions League semi-final.
Just one goal and one assist in 21 appearances is unquestionably a poor return, and in truth, his underlying numbers show nothing to wax lyrical about, however against Juventus, Bayern Munich, and Liverpool, Lo Celso undoubtedly impressed, demonstrating seemingly unquantifiable value on Europe’s biggest stage.
In terms of numbers, the one area the Argentine excels in is his work rate, being in the top 11% of attack midfielders and wingers in Europe’s top five leagues for pressures per 90, and the top 5% for tackles (FBref).
Whilst this is unlikely to excite fans, it will certainly earn Lo Celso praise with Conte, as the Italian values work rate and commitment from everyone in his squad.
In the Champions League at least, his intensity facilities creativity, as after winning possession, Lo Celso showed the ability to progress the ball up the field, helping create chances on the break for his teammates.
His performances have surely put him in the shop window, leaving Conte with much to consider, as on one hand, recouping a chunk of the £45 million spent (TransferMarkt) looks more feasible now than ever before, however, if this Villarreal iteration of Lo Celso continues into next season at pastures new, Spurs may be left wondering what could have been.
If he were to depart, Villarreal are reported keen on negotiating to keep the player, however, given his performances in Europe, they may face competition which could help bolster any potential fee (Football Insider).
However, looking at Spurs’ squad, if Lo Celso can finally adapt to the Premier League and continue his form, he could become an important player for Conte next season.
With European football a certainty at this point, squad depth will be crucial, and at present Lo Celso’s skillset differs from any of Spurs’ current midfielders.
His tactical and moreover positional versatility demonstrated at Villareal are real strengths, as with Spurs competing in four competitions next season, having a player comfortable in several roles could be invaluable.
At the end of the day, Lo Celso’s future lies largely in the hands of Conte, as if he truly doesn’t rate the Argentine, there is ultimately no value to keeping him in North London.
I’m sure I’m not the only Spurs fan excited at the sight of Lo Celso performing on the big stage, and whether he stays or goes, at present, Spurs look to be the real winners from his time at Villareal.
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