As Nemanja Matic lurches from one subdued performance to another, now seems a relevant a time to recall that Eric Dier was Jose Mourinho’s preferred midfield target in the summer. Dier was desperate to join Manchester United but the feeling was his representatives did not push Tottenham hard enough to sell a player Mauricio Pochettino has developed into one of England’s most pivotal players.
By the time United had flown to Washington to conclude their pre-season tour of the United States Mourinho was resigned to Dier staying in London. “There is another team that I feel the dimension of their investment is also phenomenal: Tottenham,” Mourinho eulogised.
“I think until now they spent zero pounds, right? For me the dimension of their investment is amazing. They keep everybody they want to keep. They keep Dele Alli, Kane and Alderweireld, they keep Eric Dier, they keep everyone they want to keep.”
Upheaval at Spurs is inevitable if they endure another trophyless campaign and fail to sufficiently remunerate their outstanding talents. This month marks the 10-year anniversary since their last trophy and that League Cup win ended a nine-year drought. Two League Cups is all they have had to show for the last quarter of a century.
Dier wanted to work with Mourinho and Danny Rose wants to, although Luke Shaw may have scuppered his chances. Dele Alli has considered angling for a summer transfer but his stock has dwindled this term and Harry Kane, who would just about enhance any team, remains the biggest flight risk in Pochettino’s squad.
With a new £1billion stadium to pay for, a major summer sale remains possible and the prime candidate is one of the players name checked by Mourinho. Toby Alderweireld, who has just returned to the Spurs side following a three-month injury lay-off, is technically out of contract in less than 18 months and has shown little desire to ink a renewal.
Central midfield and the right flank are the priority positions to reinforce in the summer but Alderweireld is that rare thing; an attainable Tottenham first-teamer and an exception should be made for such a commodity.
He could also be cheap. Alderweireld’s contract expires in 2019 but includes a one-year extension (similar to those inserted into United players’ deals), which is scheduled to be activated next summer. Yet it also features a £25million release clause which could be activated in the summer of 2019, which increases the pressure on Spurs to sell this summer.
Since Alderweireld moved to England on loan with Southampton in 2014, he has developed into maybe the outstanding central defender in the Premier League. Notwithstanding his fine form, Alderweireld stands at over six foot and turns 29 in March, which makes him Mourinho material in the transfer market.
United are believed to have shown an interest in Alderweireld, arguably the ideal Premier League complement for Eric Bailly. United are teeming with central defenders and shelled out £30.9m on Victor Lindelof, a player who has not featured in the league since New Year’s Day and whom Mourinho sought reassurances over from his Portuguese contacts two months after the Swede’s arrival.
Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling are all technically out of contract next year and Axel Tuanzebe has embarked on a loan spell with Aston Villa. United have the best defence in the league and have conceded only three in their last nine but Smalling showed why Mourinho refuses to consider playing out of the back with him at Newcastle on Sunday and Rojo’s ropy return to domestic football has restricted him to one league start in the new year.
Alderweireld has not travelled with Tottenham to Turin for their Champions League round-of-16 first leg with Juventus on Tiuesday night. The explanation is it enables him to continue with his rehabilitation, even though he returned from a three-month injury lay-off against Newport County last week. Two teammates who were previously previously rested by Pochettino, citing fitness issues, were Kyle Walker and Rose. One left and the other could leave.
“A very specific transfer between two rivals in the same country is something that should happen more,” Mourinho said of the Alexis Sanchez swap deal which involved Henrikh Mkhitaryan heading to Arsenal. United raided the champions for Matic and if there is a Spurs defender they should go for it is maybe Alderweireld.
And not Rose.