Tottenham Hotspur owner Daniel Levy has made some bad decisions in recent years.
The club’s decision-making from top to bottom has been incredibly hit and miss of late, and that includes their business in the transfer market.
Spurs have missed out on key stars to rivals, failed to convince major targets of their plans to return towards challenging for the Premier League title, and now risk losing the few world class players already at their disposal.
So, it’s time to start getting these selections right. One major transfer headache for new director of football Fabio Paratici is the potential signing of either Lyon talisman Houssem Aouar or AS Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini.
Both players have built up quite the reputation as Europe’s most exciting midfielders in the past couple of years, and both are potentially available this summer. Pellegrini’s current contract boasts a tantalising £26m release clause, while Lyon are expected to accept bids of around £30m for Aouar – an absolute steal.
Spurs can’t sign them both though, so they’ll need to choose the right man to push them back towards the top four. But which star should they gamble on? 90min analyses which player is the best bet.
Pellegrini flourished last season, playing in behind the striker in an attacking and adventurous Roma side. He has also become a much more consistent performer, recording 20 goal contributions in all competitions for the 2020/21 campaign. He’s an intelligent, creative operator, who, although lacking a killer instinct in front of goal, takes great pleasure in serving others in better positions.
Not the quickest or trickiest with the ball at his feet, he relies on his vision and ability to break the lines with his passing.
Aouar has made a name for himself as one of the most promising talents in European football, and had it not been for France’s insane pool of midfield options, he’d probably have played some part at Euro 2020. He’s a competent finisher, excellent at dribbling with the ball, and can pick out a key pass in the final third.
A bit of an all-rounder.
This is one of Pellegrini’s biggest weaknesses, and the main cause of Roma supporters’ frustration. The Giallorossi star tends to go missing against the very big teams, and he looks like a boy against men in the most physical of midfield battles.
If you’re wanting to sign a player who can win you matches against direct rivals, he’s not the one you need.
If there is one thing Juventus and Manchester City supporters learnt during their failed 2019/20 Champions League campaigns, it’s that Aouar turns up in big matches. Against all the odds, Lyon managed to cause the upset of the round of 16 and quarter-finals against the Bianconeri and the Citizens, with their Frenchman at the heart of it, dominating the midfield battle and driving his team forward.
It was a coming of age tournament for Aouar, and one which put him firmly on the radar of Europe’s elite.
Remarkably, Pellegrini and Aouar have scored the same number of league goals in their careers, although the latter has played considerably fewer games. The Roma man has notched 23 strikes in Serie A, while also boasting an impressive 32 assists – 12 more than his rival.
As mentioned, Aouar has hit 23 goals in his career, although those have come in 127 league matches, compared to Pellegrini’s 162. The Frenchman also plays a touch deeper than Pellegrini, so his opportunities for finding the net are more limited.
This is where Pellegrini shines. He may go into hiding against the big teams, but that’s probably because they know how to deny him the time and space he needs. When he is afforded an extra half-second, he can be devastating. You can tell he grew up watching Francesco Totti in the ambitious passes he sees and attempts to execute, and every now and again, they do come off.
That bravery and vision can be priceless, if nurtured and encouraged correctly.
Aouar is not quite as effective in the final third as Pellegrini, often doing his best work a bit deeper in the midfield than the Roma star. He did manage 10 assists in all competitions in the 2019/20 campaign, but that figure dropped to four last season.
He is an extremely intelligent controller of the game, and perhaps could up his numbers with the right players around him.
For us, this is the greatest concern that Spurs should hold when considering the signing of Pellegrini. The 25-year-old is a talented player, but his style is not suited to the Premier League. Roma fans lament how slow he is when making a decision in the final third, and his tendency to delay a pace for a second too long costs his side momentum, and occasionally sees him robbed in possession.
If he continues down that path and fails to cut out that flaw in his game, he simply stands no chance of surviving in the much more intense and high tempo division that is the Premier League.
Aouar was built for the English top flight. He is slight in stature, but incredibly strong on the ball and hard to knock off it. He possesses that zip across the ground needed to dodge tackles and cover the middle of the pitch, and has shown in the past that he can stand up to the sternest of Premier League tests.
Not a lot of competition in this particular battle.
The fact that Pellegrini has had this £26m release clause in his contract for a couple of years and no one has bothered triggering it, nor have Roma bothered removing it, should set alarm bells ringing. He is a frustrating player to watch, even if he improved last season and took on more responsibility at his boyhood club.
Simply put, Aouar is hands down the better option for Spurs. He is dynamic, quick both mentally and physically, and showed in his destruction of Man City that he’s got match-winning displays against the very best in his locker.
Pellegrini’s release clause is tempting, but don’t be blinded by it, Spurs. Aouar is the man.