Soldado sale and N’Jie joining sees Pochettino purge continue at Spurs
Roberto Soldado has become the fourth of the magnificent seven signings essentially paid for by the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid in the summer of 2013 to leave Tottenham, 11/10 with Coral to maintain themselves in the Premier League’s top six.
Packed off back to Spain after two desperately disappointing seasons with Spurs, which seldom saw him score from anywhere other than than the penalty spot, the north London club have sold Soldado to Villarreal for a major loss.
Supposedly savvy White Hart Lane chairman Daniel Levy splashed a reported £26m on Soldado, but the Yellow Submarine surfaced in the Thames, struck a bargain and snapped him up for just £10m. How can offloading a player whose value has decreased by an alarming 61.5 per cent be considered good business?
Soldado’s epitaph at Spurs should mirror that of Andy Carroll and his time at Liverpool as the knee-jerk replacement for Fernando Torres. Both were bought with disturbingly little regard by coaches for playing to their strengths.
Any scout worth his wages should have told Tottenham chief Levy and then boss Andre Villas-Boas that they were getting a fox in the box. You can literally count the strikes Soldado scored for Valencia from outside the area on one hand.
Orthodox, old-fashioned wingplay is dead at the Lane; its last vestiges snuffed out by the marginalising of English duo Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend under Mauricio Pochettino.
Latin coaches schooled in Iberia like AVB and him come with a slow, patient approach play, thus making the marriage between Soldado and Spurs doomed to fail from the outset.
Three other Bale bonanza flops in Paulinho, Etienne Capoue and Vlad Chiriches were all sold at losses too, and in total Tottenham have taken just shy of a £30m hit on offloading their not so fantastic four.
It’s not a complete disaster for deal negotiator Levy, though; at least Christian Eriksen and belatedly Nacer Chadli have worked out. The court of public opinion remains in deliberations over Pochettino’s fellow Argentine talent Erik Lamela, but this experience leaves a lot to be desired when thinking of adopting a scattergun policy.
Soldado shall be confined to that dusty corner of Premier League prices best worth forgetting about. What of the future? Cameroon forward Clinton N’Jie has come in for a reported £12m from resurgent Ligue 1 outfit Lyon.
Not to be too downcast on an admittedly bright prospect, but the Kids have hardly cashed in on their prized asset by letting reputedly ruthless Levy raid them. Lyon’s leading scorer last season was Alexandre Lacazette, with 31 in all competitions, backed up by Nabil Fekir, who enjoyed a breakthrough campaign operating off him and helping himself to 15.
Both committed their futures to a club that came closest to challenging PSG’s domestic dominance last term, leaving Levy with N’Jie and his goal return of eight, which is half of Fekir’s tally and paltry compared to Lacazette’s exploits.
Tottenham fans should ask themselves who has done the better business when it comes to this latest attacking acquisition?
Lyon have sold N’Jie for £12m, and spent just half of that on signing striker Claudio Beauvue from Guingamp plus luring creative force Mathieu Valbuena back to France from Russia.
With £6m still in the bank, and a forward line that now possesses real strength in depth for their Champions League return, the Kids are alright.
And yet, Levy deserves some credit for helping to persuade a player like N’Jie to sacrifice elite European football at Lyon for the less lauded Europa League – something Spurs should take seriously, as this is now a back-door route into the top continental competition.
At 16/1 to win the Europa League, Tottenham are expected to be in the mix on this stage, which they ought to be accustomed to by now.
Toby Alderweireld adds real European experience to Spurs at the back, with campaigns aplenty during his days at Ajax and brief spell with Atletico Madrid. The Belgian rather puts other defensive recruits; Burnley right back Kieran Tripper and Austria international Kevin Wimmer, in the shade.
Boasting an Indomitable Lions international record which is already very encouraging with six strikes in 11 caps, meanwhile, playing in the Premier League is going to be a big step up from N’Jie.
That is the gamble Tottenham are taking, but are not alone in doing so, as Swansea City and notably Aston Villa (where Pochettino’s predecessor Tim Sherwood now presides) have also lured Ligue 1 talent.
African attackers have hardly flourished long-term with Spurs. Emmanuel Adebayor made a real impact when playing for his future initially on loan, just as Egyptian counterpart Mido had before him, and also enjoyed a brief renaissance under Sherwood’s wing, but is now the next wasteful extravagance Levy must offload.
N’Jie should not be tarred with the same brush of those who have come before him, however, but judged instead on what he can do when put up against Premier League defenders.
His stature, a below average 5ft 9in, suggests the physical battle will not be something he relishes, but hints at a low centre of gravity, which could well see him slaloming past people on route to goal.
Many punters keeping tabs on Tottenham are waiting to see whether Levy follows up on N’Jie by adding Burundi-born England call-up striker Saido Berahino to the attack. West Bromwich Albion want £15m or £20m, depending on which tabloids you read, but relieving the goal burden on academy graduate Harry Kane is essential.
If N’Jie arriving was supposed to boost Spurs, with the announcement made prior to their opening home game of the Premier League campaign against Stoke City, then it only worked for the first half.
Given a healthy half-time lead by Eric Dier and Chadli (note no striker scoring), N’Jie could be forgiven for thinking his transition to the Premier League would be seamless when paraded on the pitch during the interval.
A harsh lesson for both player and club followed, as Pochettino saw his charges throw away their two-goal advantage late on with Marko Arnautovic and Mame Biram Diouf dragging the Potters level to take a point back with them.
Kane’s industry was praised, but a result like this betrays just how over-reliant Tottenham are upon him. We will have to wait and see if N’Jie is to be a foil for him or an attacking alternative to an increasingly talismanic figure.
However well or badly he performs, and what criteria are applied to him in order to make a successful maiden season in England, it’s difficult to see N’Jie as anything other than a signing to help maintain Spurs at their current level as consistent top six finishers.