Opinion: What Dilan Markanday’s exit means for Tottenham’s academy future

Dilan Markanday left Tottenham Hotspur in January after just 15 minutes of first-team football (TransferMarkt), and his exit has raised many questions.

The 20-year-old joined Blackburn Rovers on a permanent deal for a fee of £500k, agreeing a three-and-half year contract with the club and an option for another year (Daily Mail).

Markanday made a name for himself this season, tallying 12 goals and five assists for the under 23’s in Premier League 2 (TransferMarkt).

The winger was awarded Premier League 2 Player of the Month in October, having scored against Crystal Palace and both Manchester clubs.

Despite his efforts, he failed to break into the first team and receive any playing time under Antonio Conte. Markanday clearly pushed for the move in hope of regular first-team football and progressing his career.

Blackburn sit second in the Championship and are kicking on for promotion, which could see the former Spurs prospect in the top flight next season. Although, they will likely have to make this push without him due to a serious injury sustained on his debut (BBC).

While he started training with the first team as a teenager, he made just one appearance for Tottenham. Former Spurs boss, Nuno Espirito Santo, put him on as a substitute for 15 minutes against Vitesse earlier in the season.

The team suffered a disappointing 1-0 loss in the Europa Conference League fixture, but Markanday became the first British Asian player to represent the first team (Independent).

During Mauricio Pochettino’s time at the club, other academy products got the nod before the winger but he did appear on the bench under Jose Mourinho and a number of other times for Santo.

Markanday said in an interview earlier in the season (Daily Mail): “The dream is to play for Tottenham for the next 15 years, playing every game.

“Being around the first team has made me want it even more. It has made me hungry and I want to be in that environment every day for the next 15 years.

“Growing up in North London, in Barnet, Tottenham has always been so close to home, I went to a lot of their games when I was younger.

“It has always been a club that I have massively loved, so to be now part of it and coming through the academy has been a great feeling.”

Loyalty is a hard thing to find in today’s game. It’s even harder to find in top players. So Markanday’s departure begs the question, what’s the aim of Tottenham’s academy?

One purpose of football academies is to produce players to one-day play for the first team. However, it is no secret academies can be cutthroat, only focusing on their top talents and filtering out the rest.

Spurs is no different, but the academy has produced a promising prospect in Markanday and let him leave without a real opportunity.

What message does it send to the rest of the youngsters, when even the best of the academy isn’t given a chance at the first team?

Up until now, the club should have given the 20-year-old more appearances in pre-season, cup ties and even a taste of the Premier League.

This January transfer window would have also been an appropriate time to send him out on loan. A six-month stint at a Championship club would have given the winger the first-team football he desired.

Oliver Skipp played a vital role in Norwich’s promotion last season; his experience at the Canaries has now helped him cement a regular place at Tottenham.

The move would have seen Markanday improve and pick up experience, giving him a more realistic opportunity with the first team upon his return. It is important to not understate the jump from the under 23’s to the Premier League.

Spurs also want to achieve big things with Conte and the club is already home to a number of wingers including Son Heung-Min, Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn. Although Markanday possesses promising ability, it is likely Spurs did not see him as the right fit for now.

The first team also features a number of homegrown players, including Skipp, Japhet Tanganga and at times Dane Scarlett. Ryan Sessegnon is not an academy product, but at 21-years-old he has made a number of appearances for the club this season.

While Markanday may not have been ready for regular first-team football at Spurs, it seems careless to not nurture his potential like other young players.

The winger will look to make an immediate contribution to Blackburn and with luck, he can fulfil his desires back at Spurs one day.

But Tottenham need to be careful with their future academy dealings. A successful academy product either gets handed opportunities in the first-team, or gets sold for a big profit.

Markanday represented neither and, therefore, something went wrong from Tottenham’s end. There needs to be a clear pathway into the first-team if the academy is to work and if the youngsters are expected to want to stay at the club.

One need only look at the likes of Marcus Edwards and Noni Madueke who are thriving elsewhere after leaving the Spurs academy.

Hopefully, this doesn’t become a regular occurrence at Spurs and the academy can continue to bring talent into the first team, but something has to change in order for that to happen.

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