There has been a lot of talk recently that Tottenham are planning to offload one of our most recent acquisitions in the 24 year old French midfielder Benjamin Stambouli, who only arrived last summer for an undisclosed fee. Stambouli’s chances have been somewhat limited in Spurs’ overclogged midfield pool and has really only been given Europa league chances to prove himself as a potential first teamer, grabbing his only goal for the club in the game against Partizan Belgrade back in November. Now, whilst he may not be a midfielder that will grab goals for fun, whenever I have watched Stambouli he seems to be more than capable on the ball when it comes to passing, looking more forward than Nabil Bentaleb does when it comes to starting attacks. His main talent is tackling as he has often looked tenacious when it comes to winning the ball and definitely seems to have a lot more accuracy than many of our other midfielders, a trait that is very useful considering the appalling amount of goals we shipped this year. The main question here is, if Stambouli is sold this summer, Will we have missed a trick with this talented young Frenchman? And could he follow the path of other talents in recent years that have gone on to reinvent themselves away from the Lane?
Firstly, this isn’t an article demanding Stambouli’s integration into the first team picture as soon as possible. I still believe he has to prove himself worthy to be a member of the starting XI but he definitely needs more chances. Giving him 4 starts in the league (with 8 appearances off the bench) is hardly going to give the guy a chance to express himself fully, although I do recall one statistic of Stambouli coming off the bench with 15 minutes left to play and making more successful tackles than any other Spurs player on the pitch that day, showing his tenacity could definitely make him an asset to our side. On our post-season tour to Malaysia/Australia, Poch chose to give Stambouli a go at centre-back in a couple of games. By all accounts, he impressed in this position (where he also played for former club Montpellier) so his versatility could work in his favour if we choose to hang onto him, considering our weakness in defence this year, conceding as many goals as relegated Burnley and two more than relegated Hull City! Although the arrival of promising Kevin Wimmer might restrict his chances in that position unless we (hopefully!) shift some deadwood from that position…Kaboul and Chiriches being two names to spring to mind.
If Stambouli’s true talents are magnified as a centre half rather than a defensive midfielder, this would not be the first time in recent memory where Spurs have been guilty of not getting the best out of a talented player because they are playing him in the wrong position. In 2007, Spurs spent just over £5million on a talented young German (as he represented Germany at youth level at the time before switching to Ghana at senior level) prospect by the name of Kevin-Prince Boateng. His career at Spurs looked promising under Juande Ramos but stalled when Harry Redknapp came in at the helm, Boateng transferred to Redknapp’s previous club Portsmouth in 2009 and blamed the Spurs boss for not utilising his talents fully, as he preferred to be an attacking midfield rather than play in the defensive role he felt Redknapp limited him to. K-PB went on to have massive success at Pompey, annoyingly and typically scoring against us in the 2-0 defeat in the FA Cup semi final in 2010 which led the South Coast club to an eventual final defeat at the hands of Chelsea. However, Boateng went from strength to strength, starring for Ghana in their memorable run in the 2010 World Cup Quarter Finals at International level before having great success at Italian giants AC Milan domestically, winning the Scudetto and Supercoppa in his first season. Redknapp later lamented his decision to sell Boateng and this is an exemplary case of a post-Spurs success story.
Whilst Boateng and Stambouli were both relatively unknown by the time they came to Spurs, Giovani Dos Santos was a player who was already a star in the making. Graduating from the hallowed La Masia academy and making his first team debut at 18, it seemed like one of the best deals in Premier League history when Juande Ramos snapped him up from Barcelona for a mere 6 million Euros in the summer of 2008. However, despite impressing internationally at the 2010 World Cup for Mexico and finishing runner up for the Young Player of the Tournament, Harry Redknapp did not like what he perceived as a lack of commitment from Giovani and did not seem to know where to play him due to the form of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon on both flanks for Spurs. After numerous loan spells at clubs like Ipswich, Galatasaray and Racing Santander, he left under a cloud to join Mallorca in 2012. They were relegated from La Liga but Giovani finished top scorer before leaving to join recently promoted Villarreal. He has experienced something of a renaissance at the Yellow Submarines and is now considered one of the most dangerous players in La Liga…considering the inconsistencies of Spurs’ current wingers, he could have been a useful option for Mauricio Pochettino this season.
Stambouli is not the only member of the current squad that may not have reached their full potential. Paulinho has been the biggest disappointment for me after starring for Corinthians and winning the Bronze Ball for Brazil in the 2013 Confederations Cup as I truly expected him to become a mainstay of the Tottenham midfield for many years but he has failed to deliver and looks to be on his way unless a good Copa America convinces Poch that he still has something to offer…or convinces other clubs that Paulinho would be a worthwhile transfer target. Lewis Holtby is now the forgotten man after building a respected reputation in Germany and it is uncertain where he will end up after returning to Spurs considering Hamburg struggled last season and only just survived relegation. I would honestly rather keep Stambouli than either of these two players because I think his style of play would be suited to the Premier League and could give us the extra edge in midfield that we are currently lacking and not become another player who will shine after being stuck in the shadows at White Hart Lane.
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