The January transfer is one of my favorite times of year. It's even more exciting, to me, than the summer transfer period, because the names that get thrown around in January are always a little off the wall. One of the more obscure names, at least to people who do not actively follow Ligue 1, that has been linked with a number of English clubs, including Tottenham Hotspur is Paul-Georges Ntep.
Name: Paul-Georges Ntep
League: Ligue 1
Position: Left Wing/Forward
Can also play: Right Wing/Forward
Paul-Georges Ntep has long been considered one of the top young players in Ligue 1. However, after joining Rennes from Ligue 2 side Auxerre there were a lot of questions about his decision making and some perceived selfishness. In a way, he was the French Andros Townsend. This season hasn't done a lot to dispell those perceptions, but his performances have been good enough that some teams might be willing to overlook these deficiencies.
What Ntep does best, perhaps better than most footballers, is be fast. His pace is blinding, he's also very powerful. He is more than willing to run at defenders and his workrate, at least offensively, is so high that he seems to rarely tire. In addition, he seems to, much like Nacer Chadli, consistently pop up in scoring positions. In 28 total appearances for Rennes since last January, Ntep has scored 11 goals.
The weaknesses, though, are almost as glaring as the strengths. As tireless as Ntep is with the ball, he's horribly lazy when it comes to pitching in on defense. We've seen what happens to players under Pochettino who refuse to work hard in the press and I sincerely question how willing to track back or pressure the ball Ntep would be. Also, and perhaps most maddeningly, Ntep's passing is pretty poor. A typical sequence of play involving Ntep will feature him gathering the ball on the left, dribbling past two or three defenders and then either passing the ball to no one in particular or attempting a purely speculative shot.
Ntep is a player who seems to grow in confidence every week and his run of good performances in Ligue 1 have spurred him to new heights. Sometimes, however, his confidence leads him to some...let's say questionable decisions on the pitch.
Finally, to close, let's look at how his stats are this year.
Paul-Georges Ntep. Rennes. He's talented, but skeptical he can maintain that scoring rate right now. pic.twitter.com/Levoc6YzZK
— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) December 4, 2014
Look at all those dribbles!
Likely price: It depends on who you believe. Some places say he could come as cheap as £3.5 million, other places say as much as £8 million. If I had to bet, I'd guess closer to the latter, though Le 10 Sport claims Rennes would want 20 million Euro if PSG came for him.
Probability that valuation is wrong: 20%? That's a pretty wide spread. I can't imagine him going for more than £8 million.
Team's willingness to sell: Rennes are kind of middle of the pack in Ligue 1. The Breton club aren't going down, but, while they're only 4 points out of fifth, they're probably not going to challenge closer to the top of the table. Rennes probably aren't averse to cashing in on Ntep.
Fit at Tottenham Hotspur: I think the fit is a resounding "meh". Our attacking lineup doesn't feature a lot of pace, barring Townsend, so Ntep's addition would certainly add that, but he is, to me, just as limited as Townsend. Ntep has a much better goal-scoring record, but who knows how that will translate to the Premier League. Perhaps the biggest strike against Ntep is his lack of effort on the defensive end. That could be a problem if Pochettino doesn't whip him into shape.
Possibility he ends up at Spurs: I'd say it's more likely than not. There's been a lot of smoke around Ntep's move and we're the biggest club in for him (I don't buy the Manchester United rumors). He'd probably be smarter to move to Stoke City where he could get more playing time, but Spurs can likely offer more money.
Grade if this transfer goes through at likely price: B. Are there better players out there than Ntep? Yes. Would they come to Spurs? Maybe? Would they cost somewhere around £5 million? Certainly not. Ntep is great value for money. He's young and has lots of time to mature and grow for a footballer. This deal could wind up being an A/A+ move in a few years or he could wind up as the next Giovani dos Santos. It will all depend on how Ntep trains and works.