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Moutinwho? The case against signing Joao Moutinho

Joao Moutinho has been a top target for Spurs since last summer, but is he really worth signing?


Don't get me wrong, Joao Moutinho is a brilliant player. And I'd love to have him at Spurs. But signing him makes absolutely zero sense.

When we first sent covetous glances Porto's way, we had a very real need for a player like Joao Moutinho. Luka Modric's departure was imminent, and we obviously needed someone to replace him in our midfield. Joao Moutinho was tipped as that guy. He was a deep-lying playmaker with excellent passing skills who had just come off a brilliant Euro 2012. What's more, he played under AVB at Porto, winning the treble and going undefeated in the league. What a magical reunion that would be! Of course he was the perfect guy for us.

But Porto decided to get cute with Daniel Levy and at the final hurdle we failed to sign him.

Instead, Levy watched Mousa Dembele steamroll Manchester United for Fulham, thought what the hell, and threw them £15m to steal their midfield lynchpin.

And it's worked brilliantly. Our midfield pairing of Dembele and Sandro forms arguably the best central midfield duo in the Premier League. (Who's better? Arteta-Wilshere? Barry-Yaya? Luiz-Lampard? Does United even have a central midfield?) We are 11-1-1 in the league when they have started together. Why would you want to change that?

Joao Mountinho is 25 years old and a key part of the Portugal national team who gets to play in the Champions League every year with Porto. And he would cost at least £25m and instantly become one of the top 3 earners at our club. This is not a guy who comes to sit on the bench.

So what's your genius plan, sit one of Dembele or Sandro, both of whom have been brilliant, and play Moutinho in their place? We are not a club overflowing with oil bucks. Does this sound like a wise use of our limited finances? To smash our transfer record to replace players who not only don't need replacing, but who have been some of our best players all season?

Come on.

Playing Moutinho in our central midfield means gambling £25m on the chance that Moutinho can hit the ground running and improve on what is already the best central midfield in the league.

Or maybe you envision Dembele playing in the hole ahead of Moutinho and Sandro. That's not a terrible idea. After all, Dembele started his career further up the pitch. Even ignoring the fact that he's been significantly better playing deeper than he ever was further forward, this still makes no sense.

First of all, we have to assume that Moutinho comes in and works great paired up with Sandro in midfield. Then we have to take Mousa Dembele and uproot him from a position he's been great at all season, to play him behind the striker. But what does Dembele give us in that position that would make our team so much better? Brilliant incisive passing? No, he's more of a dribbler and direct runner then a guy who plays clever defense-splitting passes. Or maybe goalscoring? No, he doesn't really do goals either.

Dembele's biggest strength is his ability to beat a man in midfield and move the ball further forward quickly to start our attack. Moving him forward not only doesn't improve his function with the team, it necessarily negates his greatest strength.

Not to mention we already have Clint Dempsey, who has started to show some real quality in his last few matches, and 22 year-old Gylfi Sigurdsson who already play that position. We're going to shove them both down the pecking order AND break up our midfield on a guy who costs as much as all three of them combined? Not to mention the fact that we just signed Lewis Holtby to join us in the summer who will also earn substantial wages and compete for this position.

Or maybe you foresee Moutinho playing the furthest forward in a midfield three ahead of Dembele and Sandro. That might not be so bad, since we wouldn't have to break up our midfield dynamic duo. Although Moutinho prefers to play deeper, he's certainly been effective pushed higher up the pitch. In fact, he had a really great game against PSG in the Champions League doing just that.

So now we're spending £25m on a guy to play a position he doesn't really play, but who could probably play it, even though we already have three guys who naturally play that position, all of whom we signed within the past six months. That makes sense.

Even if Levy does decide that Siggy and Dempsey have no future with Spurs and wants to replace them, is Moutinho the right guy to replace them with? What kind of player is Moutinho that he should be our number 10?

Joao Moutinho is a metronomic passer of the ball with excellent technical abliity, workrate, and defensive skills. Those are his finest qualities. He'd be wonderful to have dictating tempo from deep. But he's not necessarily going to give you the same level of brilliance further forward. Where other clubs have Silva, Mata, Cazorla, or Rooney, will Moutinho be on that level?

Like Dembele, Moutinho is not a prolific goalscorer, so he's not going to fill the goalscoring shoes of the departed Rafa van der Vaart. And he's a great passer of the ball, with flashes of brilliance, but he's not the kind of audacious visionary like Iniesta that will see him unlock defenses with an inch-perfect diagonal or scooped ball straight into the onrushing striker's path. He's not Mesut Ozil, popping up all over the pitch to receive a pass while scrambling defenses out of position with his movement to open space for his teammates.

So while Moutinho is fabulous at what he does, for £25m he better be fabulous at what we need him to do. And if what we need him to do is play as a number 10, then he's probably not the guy we should be looking at. There are younger and cheaper who play the position more naturally (Christian Eriksen and Siem de Jong, to name just two who play for the same team.)

What about squad rotation? No. We're not spending £40m between Dembele and Moutinho to have them rotate between one position. Sorry, we're not coached by Rafa Benitez.

If we had Chelsea or Man City money, I'd love for Levy to throw obscene cash at established internationals and make them our backup players. But we don't, so we have to use our limited resources wisely. Dembele absolutely needs someone who can cover for him, because we've seen how woeful we are in his absence. But that guy's not going to cost £25m. We're going to get a veteran who won't mind sitting on the bench, or a young up and comer who won't mind the bench.

Or very probably we're going to use our brand new signing Lewis Holtby, who can play three positions comfortably, including backing up Dembele in midfield. And it's a shame he's not coming in January.

So let's get real here. Joao Moutinho is a wonderful footballer, but he's not coming to Spurs. He makes very little sense as a way to improve the first team, and he makes almost zero sense financially. Let's stop dreaming about him and find someone new to rosterbate over. Someone who makes sense.

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