It's no secret that Tottenham have a bit of a lacking defence right now, with not a single fit central defender and a left back that had an awful season in 2012-13. It's also no secret that I'm not a big fan of Benoit Assou-Ekotto or Danny Rose as permanent options for Tottenham Hotspur's long term future. No doubt, they could both do a capable job in the short term, but eventually I think they will be found out and left back will once again be Tottenham's weakest spot on the pitch. That's why I propose why take out two birds with one stone. I present to you Domenico Criscito.
Domenico Criscito is a 26-year-old Italian defender playing for Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia, having joined from Genoa in 2011. Criscito started his career as a central defender, before being moved to left back due to his slight frame and impressive pace, which is far more suited to a wide role. Since joining Zenit, Criscito has been a key part of the team's formation, usually providing the only width on the left side of the pitch and getting forward well, scoring 4 goals and providing 8 assists in his 51 games at Zenit. Criscito is also very versatile, able to fill in at his former position in central defence, as well as pushing further up the pitch and covering on the left wing.
Now here is where I explain exactly why I want him. Criscito is far better at both BAE and Rose at defending, despite often having to deal with closing down multiple players on his wing. However, Criscito is also fantastic at getting forward, with impressive pace, dribbling and crossing ability. Often when watching his lung-bursting runs, I am reminded of Gareth Bale circa 2010, as a wide player who loves to get to the by-line and swing a cross in. As none of our present options on the left wing exactly promote width, it will likely be down to the left back to provide crosses from the left, a role that the Italian is more than comfortable with. Were Tottenham to sign Criscito, we could use him as a backup or substitute for a while, as AVB seems prone to do with new players, before making him a starter. I envisage his role at Tottenham being something of a reverse Jan Vertonghen, starting as first choice at left back, but filling in at centre back when injuries cause depth in defence to drop to critical levels, as they are right now.
Now for the reality of this signing. Criscito has been off since February after he had surgery on his knee, but has reportedly returned to training in the past week. Obviously, it is yet to be seen whether he will return as strong as he left, but this is the first major injury of his career and not symptomatic of a wider trend of fitness issues. We, along with Fiorentina, were linked with Criscito back in June, but his agent dismissed these rumours and claimed that the Italian was happy in St. Petersburg, although nothing was heard out of Zenit themselves. In fact, despite being nearer to fitness, we'd be more likely to snap him up now than if we were interested then. Zenit just signed Christian Ansaldi from Rubin (who announced it at half time of their match with CSKA) and already have a plethora of left-backs in Aleksandar Lukovic, Milan Rodic and new boy Dzhamaldin Khodzhaniyazov, as well as centre backs Tomas Hubocan and Nicolas Lombaerts being more than capable of filling in there as well.
Despite being the best left back at Zenit by a country mile, Criscito looks like he'll be increasingly marginalised and could angle for a move upon a full return to fitness. A few days back, I predicted that Zenit would sell in the region of £18 million, however with Ansaldi's signing, I wouldn't be surprised if they offered him around at £12-15 million, which would prove to be a bargain signing, and part of the fee could be recouped by moving on one of BAE or Rose. Obviously we could just sign a centre back and keep our current left back corps, but I see a potential Criscito signing as a chance to greatly improve on one position and add depth to two others. To me, Domenico Criscito would be the cherry on top of the cake that has been this transfer window.