Tottenham’s Ndombele dilemma – How Spurs can move forward

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Since the summer transfer window opened a few weeks ago, it has been a fun few weeks for Tottenham Hotspur. Historically, Spurs supporters have had to wait for the club to complete its outgoings before new players came into the fold. However, with the help of Champions League football mixed with inspiration from Antonio Conte and the robust rolodex of Fabio Paratici, Spurs have moved quite quickly in this window. Paratici has brought in three players, two of whom could very well be preferred options in the starting XI next season in Ivan Perišić and Yves Bissouma.

It’s still early in the summer, and Spurs are looking to make a few more moves ahead of their pre-season trip to Korea. As it stands, Spurs seem inclined to bring in reinforcements at left-sided centerback, right wingback, perhaps another option in midfield, as well as some form of an additional attacker. But it is not just the business of bringing in players Spurs need to be performing this summer, there are still a plethora of squad players who are in need of moves elsewhere.

Whether it is players not suited for Conte or players who need a fresh start to reignite their careers, there are roughly six to eight players who are likely on their way out this summer. The players that immediately come to mind are Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso, Harry Winks, Steven Bergwijn, Joe Rodon and Sergio Reguilón. Lo Celso has been mentioned in a player swap deal for Villarreal’s Pau Torres, who would be an option to Spurs’ left-sided centerback additions. Bergwijn has been strongly linked to Ajax, Winks has been rumored to have a few different teams including Everton, and Spurs could receive decent compensation from a number of La Liga teams for Reguilón. But while it is true that Spurs will have various suitors for a number of their “on the outs” players, the market for Ndombele has not been as fluid.

A few seasons ago when Spurs brought in the Frenchman, it was quite a coup and a clear sign of intent that Spurs were moving up in the rankings in competing with the big boys. Gifted with elite ball-handling ability to go with graft and strength, Ndombele looked to be a perfect plug-and-play midfield outlet for Mauricio Pochettino. In his first Premier League game against newly-promoted Aston Villa at the time, it looked like Pochettino’s upbeat, progressive and attacking style was the perfect fit for Ndombele as he scored an equalizing goal.

But as the 2019-20 season went on, injuries and Ndombele’s failure to adjust to the Premier League became more and more apparent as he was struggling to see out matches and match the intensity presented by league opponents. It did not help that Spurs got off to extremely poor start which saw Pochettino dismissed just three months into the season. Ndombele had similar issues under Jose Mourinho, playing in a more advanced role at the 10. Mourinho’s “hard-loving” attitude and demeanor was far less suited for Ndombele, who would have likely benefited much more from Pochettino’s charismatic approach that knitted the squad together much more like a family rather than a divisive one who created a locker room centered around fear.

In Ryan Mason’s brief tenure, virtually every single Spurs supporter would have preferred to see Ndombele in the 2021 League Cup Final against Man City, and Ndombele’s struggles persisted with yet another coach when Nuno Espírito Santo came in. Without both Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko, who were really his best friends in the squad, the shy Ndombele, like many other players, failed to kick on under Nuno. And when Antonio Conte came in, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope and a last chance for Ndombele’s raw skillset to be molded by a master tactician and elite coach like the Italian. However, after walking off the field down a goal against third-tier Morecambe at home in the FA Cup in January, there was truly no turning back for Ndombele.

The Frenchman was loaned back to Lyon – the club Spurs gave roughly € 62m when they purchased him in the 2019 summer – in January and while his form improved albeit in a much worse league in quality, there was never any option or obligation clause and Lyon made it clear they had no intention of coming close to his price tag and wages. Where Spurs truly went wrong a few seasons ago was giving him wages of £ 200,000 per week – the same as the club’s talisman Harry Kane.

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Now, after three failed seasons with Spurs, Ndombele still has three years remaining on his contract before his deal expires. It is hard to close the door entirely to an improbable return to the fold considering Ndombele’s obvious skill and ability, but some transfers just do not work out and both the club and the player as well as his representatives will obviously have recognized that. While Ndombele failed with his conditioning and getting acclimated to life in London, the club did not do him any favors either after years of unstable managerial tenures mixed with various styles of play that he was less suited for.

As we approach next season, Spurs are undoubtedly preparing for what looks to be a busy – and hopefully fruitful – season with the benefit of a full preseason under Conte. But as the season looms and the transfer window dwindles down, the Ndombele saga is only going to loom larger and larger. I would love to see Ndombele realize his full potential at Spurs and under a manager like Conte, but the reality is that Spurs are putting the Ndombele transfer in the rearview mirror and deeming it a failure and that is only more evidenced by the arrival of Bissouma , who operates in a similar manner and offers a similar skillset.

It would not come as a surprise at all if Spurs accepted a bid roughly one third of what they paid for Ndombele. The club would likely be more than happy to get his wages off the books and clear even more financial wiggle to add more players. But Tanguy’s regression has roughly tracked that of Dele and it is hard to see a club in any major league spending a decent chunk of change in this financial climate in order to take a chance on a player who on his day can look like a world- beater yet also has many poor showings mixed in between.

A likely outcome for Spurs this summer is loaning Ndombele out with the hopes that a club will split his wages or entertain the idea of ​​taking on some percentage of his wages at least for this upcoming season. Because it seems unlikely and the chance of it will decrease as the transfer window goes on, Spurs’ goal this summer for Ndombele should be getting his wages off the books and getting him in a situation and in an environment for him to prove his worth and improve his stock value with the hopes of selling him permanently in the next couple of transfer windows. Rumored to both Inter and (ironically) Roma, one saving grace is that under the right manager and in the right team, Ndombele’s value can skyrocket just as much as it can plummet. It is just a shame it never worked out at Spurs.

Follow me on Twitter @RyanSRatty.

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