Football Features

Why Spurs’ Tanguy Ndombele transfer is good news for Winks, and bad news for Lille

By Steve Jennings

Published: 11:13, 27 June 2019

According to multiple reports, Tottenham Hotspur about to break their transfer record with the signing of Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele.

French outlet L’Equipe claims the deal isn’t done yet with negotiations over a fee still ongoing. Depending on who you believe, Spurs could be paying anywhere between £55m and £67m to bring in one of their priority transfer targets.

Regardless of the final price, Tottenham look set to complete their first signing since Lucas Moura’s arrival from Paris Saint-Germain in 2018, and it’s a deal that will affect several parties in a number of different ways.

We’ve picked out a few winners and losers if Spurs sign Ndombele.

Winner: Mauricio Pochettino

Fittingly, Mauricio Pochettino has the patience of a saint; the former Southampton manager has been forced to deal with a distinct lack of transfer activity over the last 18 months with Tottenham failing to bring in a single new player in the previous two windows.

While some would throw their toys out of the pram, Pochettino has worked miracles with the tools at his disposal, leading Spurs to a Champions League final last season and securing a fourth successive top-four finish in the Premier League. That said, he hasn’t been radio silent on Tottenham’s transfer policy or lack thereof.

In the summer of 2018, Pochettino urged the club to take more risks in the market, a policy they did not pursue in that window. Or the next one. He echoed those comments in the build-up to the Champions League final, half-jokingly suggesting he may leave the club as there is little more to be achieved with the current project.

For Pochettino to remain happy at Spurs, a new project would need to begin. And the potential signing of Ndombele marks the start of that. Breaking their transfer record by around £25m is the type of risk Pochettino wants the club to take in order to consistently challenge for major trophies, and the depth Tottenham are gaining in midfield will undoubtedly increase their chances of winning silverware.

Losers: Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama

Towards the end of the 2016/17 campaign, Spurs were arguably playing their best football under Pochettino. They won 12 of their final 13 league games, losing out on the title to Chelsea but finishing strongly by scoring 13 goals in their last two matches, both on the road.

Mousa Dembele was injured at the time, leading to Pochettino settling on an unlikely midfield duo of Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama. The pair provided little creativity, instead forming a solid base for the players ahead of them to do their thing going forward – it worked brilliantly. Going into next season, Dier and Wanyama will be fearing for their places. Not just the starting line-up, but also in the full squad.

Ndombele is primarily a defensive-minded midfielder and the money Tottenham are spending on him suggests he will be a guaranteed starter (as much as a player can be under rotator-in-chief Pochettino). Even a player with few defensive attributes, Harry Winks, was preferred to Dier and Wanyama last term, so the duo has little chance of starting many games.

It may turn out to be the case that one of them is told they can find a new club in the coming weeks. It’s more likely to be Wanyama given Dier’s capacity to play at centre-back.

Winner: Harry Winks

Winks often sat at the base of Pochettino’s midfield diamond last season. He didn’t function as a dedicated defensive midfielder – Moussa Sissoko helped with that side of things – but he was often tasked with sitting deep, sweeping up and starting attacks. One of Winks’ most useful traits is his ability to receive the ball under pressure to get Spurs up the pitch.

That task is now likely to be given to Ndombele, which isn’t to say Winks is no longer needed. Instead, the England international will now be permitted more freedom to roam forward without having to worry about leaving the defence exposed. He will still constantly make himself available to the defenders when Tottenham play out from the back but won’t be shackled by too many responsibilities.

Winks has scored just two goals in 104 appearances for Spurs, so there may be question marks around whether Pochettino actually wants the 23-year-old to get higher up the pitch. After Winks made a late surge into the box to score the winner against Fulham back in January, Pochettino said: “It is something he needs to improve – [to] arrive in the opponent’s box and score more goals.”

Indeed, there is a willingness for Winks to influence the game in the opposition penalty area. Ndombele’s presence could give Winks added impetus in that regard.

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Loser: Manchester City

Manchester City have been linked with Ndombele, but there’s no way of really knowing if they have “missed out” on him. It’s unclear whether they were beaten to the punch by Tottenham or they simply dropped interest in the end. What’s more, Ndombele might prove to be below the standard of the Premier League champions.

There is reason to believe, though, that the 22-year-old would be worthy of a place in Pep Guardiola’s squad. One only has to look at the midfielder’s individual highlights against City in last season’s Champions League group stage clash at the Etihad. Lyon pulled off a surprise 2-1 victory and Ndombele was excellent in the middle of the park.

Aside from cleverly wriggling out of trouble when pressed several times, Ndombele created two chances for his teammates – only Nabil Fekir (3) created more for Lyon. Ndombele provided seven assists in Ligue 1 in 2018/19, which is impressive for a defensive midfielder.

Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus have also been linked with the 22-year-old, but City are the suitor who were handed the opportunity to watch him up-close last season. Guardiola is still on the hunt for a long-term successor to Fernandinho, and Ndombele had been mooted as an answer to City’s conundrum. That no longer looks like being the case.

Winner: Tottenham’s reputation

Earlier this month when speculation about a move to Spurs first emerged, Ndombele was quizzed on the rumours. He said: “Tottenham are a great team, a big club. They finished fourth in their league and reached the Champions League final. They are a big club and what player would not be interested by a big club?”

Spurs’ progress has been remarkable under Pochettino but the club isn’t usually mentioned in conversations about Europe’s elite. It’s understandable why: they haven’t won a trophy since the League Cup success of 2008 and their finances simply can’t match the continent’s richest outfits.

But Tottenham’s journey to the Champions League final last season showed just how far the club has come with Pochettino at the helm. It is no longer a surprise to see them linked with players the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United are targeting.

Spurs’ ambition to become a Champions League mainstay is all well and good, but it’s trophies that will take them to the next level. Signing players of Ndombele’s standard unequivocally improves those chances.

Loser: Lille

Lile midfielder Thiago Mendes

It would be easy to label Lyon a loser here. They are about to lose a key player, but the club is also set to make a huge profit on a player they signed for just £7.2m last summer. Lyon have already bought Brazilian star Jean Lucas from Flamengo and could further strengthen their midfield with an additional signing.

Discussing interest in Ndombele during a recent interview, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulus revealed the club is considering Lille midfielder Thiago Mendes as a replacement. “If he (Ndombele) had to leave we have targeted a certain number of players. Thiago Mendes is one of them,” Aulus said.

Lille finished second in Ligue 1 last term and will be hoping to retain their best players for next season’s Champions League campaign, but it sounds like they may end up losing Mendes to Lyon.

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