Football Features

Tanguy Ndombele: Should Lyon’s ‘new Essien’ pick Spurs, Man City or Real Madrid?

By Steve Jennings

Published: 17:19, 14 June 2019 | Updated: 15:08, 25 June 2019

Tanguy Ndombele is a man in demand among Europe’s elite this summer.

The Lyon midfielder enjoyed a stellar 2018/19 campaign in France and is reportedly being eyed by a host of big clubs, including Real Madrid and Juventus.

A trio of Premier League clubs – Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur – are also said to be keen on the 22-year-old. Some reports go as far to say Spurs have opened talks with Lyon over a deal to take Ndombele to north London.

However, according to club president Jean-Michel Aulas “nothing is done” yet, though he did confirm in a Lyon press conference that his prized midfield asset is “wanted by the biggest clubs”, while adding that Lyon are already evaluating possible successors.

He stated: “Tanguy Ndombele is wanted by the biggest clubs. Nothing is done. If he were to leave, we targeted a number of players. Thiago Mendes is one of them.”

And so, it seems the Frenchman could be caught in the middle of a monumental tug of war this summer. As a result, he will have to carefully consider which club is best for his development and a shot at success.

We’ve had a look at pros and cons of each Ndombele suitor in order to determine the right team for the Lyon star.

Tottenham Hotspur

According to reports, Tottenham have already made an offer for Ndombele, which Lyon rejected. But this won’t stop Spurs from going back with another bid, such is their desperation to sign a new central midfielder.

Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko performed admirably throughout 2018/19, but injuries to Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama saw Mauricio Pochettino’s squad depleted in the middle of the park. Winks and Sissoko need competition and cover, which is the minimum Ndombele will provide. In truth, he should walk into the Tottenham team.

And that’s what should make Spurs an enticing prospect for Ndombele. The club will have to part ways with a record fee to bring him in, which means he shouldn’t spend too much time out of the starting line-up. If he moves elsewhere, Ndombele may be forced to compete with central midfielders of a higher level.

What counts against Tottenham is their lack of silverware; will a player being chased by some of the most successful clubs in the modern era be willing to join an outfit that hasn’t won a trophy in over 10 years? Spurs’ progress to the Champions League final was a sign of their potential, but suggestions they have hit a glass ceiling could play on Ndombele’s mind when decision time comes around.

Juventus

Juventus possess a capable but ageing group of central midfielders. Blaise Matuidi and Sami Khedira are both 32 and Miralem Pjanic turns 30 next season. Emre Can (25) Rodrigo Bentancur (21) have added a bit more youthful energy to the side, but Juventus need more.

Ndombele, 22, would be absolutely ideal. A glance at his highlight reel is enough to recognise how much ground he covers. What’s more, none of Juventus’ five central midfielders possess defensive attributes as strong as Ndombele’s, who is able to shield a back four with minimal fuss while also bringing the ball out from the back effectively.

However, Maurizio Sarri’s arrival in the dugout now puts a bit of a spanner in the works. Sarri’s preference for Jorginho in the holding role at Chelsea points towards him using a more experienced player with the capability to constantly recycle possession, like Pjanic, in that position at Juventus. In that case, Sarri might use the more erratic Ndombele in a box-to-box role a la N’Golo Kante.

Ndombele has previously been compared to Kante after the latter’s switch to a more attacking role under Sarri, but Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas believes he is more like another midfielder with Chelsea connections.

“He reminds me of Michael Essien.”

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas of Ndombele

There are plenty of options but fewer assurances for Ndombele to excel in his preferred position were he to join Juventus.

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Manchester United

Much like Tottenham, Manchester United are likely to be throwing money at central midfielders this summer. Ander Herrera is leaving the club on a free transfer, Paul Pogba is being heavily linked with Real Madrid and Nemanja Matic struggled for form last season.

Ndombele would be the dream addition to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s midfield, especially if Pogba does leave, which is not to say he would be his countryman’s direct replacement. In fact, Ndombele would be an ideal partner for Pogba, freeing up the club’s record signing to play a more attacking role as was the case when Solskjaer first came in last season.

And therein lies one of the main issues of this potential transfer. Solskjaer’s incredible start to life in the Old Trafford dugout quickly unravelled, and a lack of Champions League football for next season could put off the likes of Ndombele when it comes to summer signings.

After a particularly entertaining, high-quality Champions League campaign in 2018/19, players of Ndombele’s level will no longer settle for Europa League football unless the financial side of things makes up for it.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid have already spent close to £300 million this summer with the main aim being to overhaul a squad of players that struggled to deal with the exits of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane last year. Zidane is now back, and the La Liga giants are making a statement in the transfer window.

Ndombele has the chance to join the Madrid revolution, which has already recruited one of the Premier League’s finest, Eden Hazard, and Bundesliga superstar Luka Jovic. Is it now time for Real to take a standout star from Ligue 1 to strengthen the squad in midfield?

It’s certainly a requirement for Zidane. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos aren’t getting any younger, while Casemiro struggled for consistency in 2018/19. It’s easy to see why, if true, Madrid are chasing Pogba; they want to usher in a new midfield era, and Ndombele would help to speed up that process.

It will surely be difficult for the former Amiens man to turn down what could be a once-in-a-career opportunity. However, there’s a good chance Madrid won’t be able to afford Ndombele given the amount of money they have already spent. Selling outcasts such as Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez may have to be the priority before a move for Ndombele can even be considered.

Manchester City

Accruing 198 points over two seasons is justification for Manchester City’s ‘best team in the world’ label. The club’s success won’t have escaped the attention of Ndombele, who will also be tempted by the opportunity to work with a manager who has drastically improved countless players across his career.

But Pep Guardiola isn’t the only inspirational figure Ndombele will feasibly be working alongside at City next term. Fernandinho, who has just turned 34, has one year left on his contract. Guardiola will know a long-term replacement is needed, and whoever comes in will have the advantage of training alongside Fernandinho, learning exactly what Guardiola requires of a central defensive midfielder.

Ndombele’s hypothetical debut season at the Etihad may see him play less football than he would at Spurs or Manchester United, but in the long run his game will prosper from watching Fernandinho closely and working under the unmatched stewardship of Guardiola.

Along with a left-back, a Fernandinho deputy/student is likely to be City’s priority in the summer transfer window. Ndombele must now decide if it’s a challenge he is up for, though Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodri could be about to pitch up in the North West, which could potentially scupper any deal for the Frenchman.

Verdict

The champions of England will be aiming to retain the title once again next season, a task that will prove hugely difficult if cover for Fernandinho isn’t brought in. But Ndombele’s potential makes him more than just a cover option; he is potentially the future of Guardiola’s midfield. Of course, this will depend on the outcome of Rodri’s future, but with the recent comments from Jean-Michel Aulas, Guardiola’s eyes certainly would have lit up.

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