Tottenham Hotspur needs help at central defense and striker, and pretty much everyone agrees on that point. So naturally, Spurs are linked with a winger. But that' s maybe not such a bad thing. In Daniel Levy's Imaginary Shortlist, we take a closer look at players to which Tottenham have been linked by the media. Some of these links are strong, some are tenuous. Some are players that Spurs may actually be considering, and some may just be players that we think Spurs SHOULD consider. Today, we take a trip waaaaaaay out east to Ukraine to visit an old friend whom Spurs have been linked to for a while now: Dnipro winger Yevhen Konoplyanka.
Name: Yevhen Konoplyanka
Team: Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk
League: Ukrainian Premier League
Position: Left/right winger
Can also play: Center attacking midfield
Yevhen Konoplyanka is a Ukrainian desperate to get out of Ukraine. He's spent his entire professional career playing for Dnipro in the Ukrainian Premier League, scoring 32 goals in 149 appearances. That may not look like a lot (and it isn't): his highest goal tally came last season when he scored 13 goals in all competitions. But that doesn't tell the entire story of Konoplyanka and why he's been on the radars of several top clubs.
Konoplyanka is a technically gifted attacking midfielder with pace, a tricky cupboard of skill moves, and a good amount of creative vision. Comfortable on either side of midfield as well as in a #10 role, he offers a versatility that can be somewhat hard to find in a good midfielder. He knows where the goal is, and is also able to find his teammates in dangerous positions and put in good passes. Don't believe me? Watch this highlight video accompanied by god-awful dub step music. (The dub step makes it GOODER.)
Now, the Ukrainian Premier League isn't the Premier League, but Konoplyanka clearly isn't a slouch. He's been compared to Marco Reus. He supposedly has admirers in Italy and Germany. Liverpool nearly signed him last summer. Oh, and did I mention he's out of contract after this season? That helps too. He can go anywhere he wants to this summer, which means Dnipro could be willing to sell low just to get something for him.
Likely price: If you believe what you read, Konoplyanka is certain to leave Dnipro one way or the other and is refusing to sign an extension. Which makes sense when you consider that Ukraine is a war zone and he's definitely good enough to play elsewhere on the continent or in England. Rumors have him going for as little as £7m, which is a far cry from the £16m that Liverpool reportedly bid for him over the summer. LOL Liverpool.
Probability that valuation is wrong: Pretty high. £7m feels ludicrously low for someone of Konoplyanka's talents, but it depends on how desperate Dnipro are to sell him. Something is better than nothing, but that's CHEAP.
Team's willingness to sell: Dnipro probably doesn't want to sell him at all, but with his contract expiring they'd probably take whatever they can get for him. However, there's a problem. The political turmoil in the Ukraine have resulted in some pretty heinous third-party ownership issues with Konoplyanka, which likely what scuppered his deal this past summer and could play havoc with any January bid.
Fit at Tottenham Hotspur: There are plenty of #kono2015 backers on this site, and many of them have assuredly watched more Ukrainian footy than I have. I will say that in the few matches I've seen of him (two of them against Spurs) Konoplyanka looked like an upgrade to Aaron Lennon: fast, creative, and direct. He's been played at Dnipro as a flex attacking midfielder in a 4-3-3, which would pretty closely approximate the 4-2-3-1 that Poche is implementing right now at Spurs. His ability to play left, right, or center would make him pretty versatile. However, it's just not clear how well his skills in the Ukrainian league would translate to the more rugged, physical EPL.
Possibility he ends up at Spurs: If this were in a vacuum, I'd say a decent shot. The third-party ownership issues scare me, though. For those reasons alone, I'm balking at this deal actually happening. What could me more likely is that Konoplyanka stays in the Ukraine but ends up signing for a club like Shakhtar Donetsk. At Shakhtar he'd get an upgrade in talent around him, a likely trip to the Champions League (nearly) every season, and he doesn't necessarily have to leave the motherland.
Grade if this transfer goes through at likely price: A-. If, and it's a big if, Spurs can land Konoplyanka at £7m, that's a steal. At best he could be an upgrade on Chadli and a clear starter. At worst, he's a solid rotation-option-slash-depth-player. But at £7m, assuming the third-party crap gets worked out, you could do a heck of a lot worse. Plus, we'll really piss off Liverpool, and that in itself is worth the money.