Tottenham’s list of their most expensive signings looks more like a hall of infamy than a hall of fame.
Of the players bought for £23m or more, there has not been one undoubted success – the closest would be Lucas Moura, who gave Spurs fans their greatest moment in the 21st century and has at least been a decent servant.
You’d expect Sergio Reguilon to kick on and prove his worth, while there’s still lingering hope that Giovani Lo Celso, Ryan Sessegnon and Steven Bergwijn could come good.
Club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele – whose final transfer fee could reach the £60m mark – has now asked to leave Tottenham. Good job, everyone.
Ndombele, though largely a quiet and reserved character, has not had the smoothest of rides at Spurs. He openly admitted that working with Mauricio Pochettino was a big factor in him joining, while he has continually struggled to maintain match fitness (through his own fault or otherwise).
Contrary to popular belief, he became one of Jose Mourinho’s most trusted players by the end of the Portuguese’s reign, becoming a key figure in the starting lineup from the autumn of 2020 onwards. There were even peaks in his form that saw comparisons with Mousa Dembele brought back up.
Ever since Ndombele first broke onto the scene with Lyon, he has continually been likened to his near-namesake. It was impossible to ignore their stylistic similarities. That only ramped up when the France international moved to Spurs six months after Dembele’s departure.
While there are similarities in their games – notably their ball retention and ability to carry it upfield – Ndombele was seen as the evolution to Dembele, a chance for Pochettino to carve out his ultimate midfielder. The Argentine may be gone and it may be too late in the window for Ndombele to secure his desired move away, but there is still hope that he could come good at Tottenham.
90min understands the Spurs hierarchy believe he has huge potential that can be fulfilled in lilywhite, and have turned down Bayern Munich’s offer of €20m plus Corentin Tolisso.
And at the age of 24, would you bet against Ndombele coming good in his career? Probably not, but the signs have not been promising when under an intense spotlight.
After all, Dembele himself was a late bloomer, never really finding his best role until his late 20s. Time is on Ndombele’s side and he clearly has a lot of talent, but perhaps Spurs fans should forget the idea of him spiritually succeeding the Belgian.
Dembele could barely pass the ball further than five yards – do you know how good you have to be to be considered one of the best central midfielders around when you can barely pass the ball further than five yards?
Trying to dispossess Dembele or even stop him in his tracks was like trying to stop The Undertaker from winning at Wrestlemania (you know, pre-Brock Lesnar). In the 2015/16 Premier League season, Dembele engaged in a total of 207 tackles and dribbles, but was only unsuccessful in 20 of them. What a stupid, stupid stat.
Spurs were blessed to have Harry Kane leading the line, supplied by Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli, yet many of the players of the Pochettino era believe Dembele was the best of the lot. That’s the standard that Ndombele is competing with, and that looks an insanely unrealistic goal right now.
Ndombele’s Tottenham career isn’t over just yet, but the downward trajectory of it is only strengthening Dembele’s legacy.