In future years, Tottenham Hotspur fans may look at young Queens Park Rangers player Massimo Luongo as "the one that got away." Once he was a promising Spurs academy product, signed from his native Australia, and made his Spurs debut under Harry Redknapp in a 2012 FA Cup match against Stevenage. He never made the side again, and after a couple of loans was signed by Swindon for £400,000 in 2013.
His rise since then has been remarkable: now the 23-year old midfielder is plying his trade in the Championship with Queens Park Rangers, was named MVP of the 2015 Asian Cup with Australia, and last week was even short-listed for the Ballon d'Or. He's the only player on the Ballon d'Or shortlist to play for a club lower than the first division. He's likely going to be a fixture in the Socceroos' World Cup squad for years to come.
So what happened? Why did he leave Spurs to begin with? Luongo recently gave an interview with James Maw at FourFourTwo where he confided that he felt marginalized and "forgotten" by Spurs under former manager Andre Villas-Boas.
It's been over two years since you left Tottenham for good. How gutted are you that it didn't work out there?
A little bit. It was the choice of managers at the time which didn't suit me. I think for a lot of players now, it didn't suit them when Harry [Redknapp] was in charge, but for me I got a lot of exposure to the first team and my debut from it. Had things been different, who knows what it could have turned out to be? AVB came in and that was probably when I made my decision to leave permanently rather than on loan because it pushed me further and further away from the first team.
Did you not think you were going to get a chance under Villas-Boas, then?
Exactly. I came back from loan and felt forgotten about. And from that, I made my decision about Tottenham.
Did you have conversations with him about that?
No, that is as far as it went. My conversations were with Tim Sherwood and Chris Ramsey while I was still part of the reserve team. Then unfortunately Tim took over and you're kicking yourself because you think you might have been given a chance, but I don't think I would have been.
Is it frustrating seeing Harry Kane, Nabil Bentaleb, Ryan Mason and Alex Pritchard mixing with the first team; players who you would have played with?
Yes and no. No being I have done pretty well myself so far and I am learning football a little bit differently. I have always gone the longer route which I hope works out for me.
This is one of the super frustrating things we as Spurs fans think of when looking back at the Andre Villas-Boas era. Say what you want about the results under AVB, but it was pretty clear that he had no interest in developing youth. Contrast that with Mauricio Pochettino's approach to management, and you have to think that, had he stayed, Luongo would not only have gotten a chance at Spurs, he might even be in the rotation. Reportedly, Luongo had a buy-back clause in his Swindon contract, but Spurs opted not to exercise that and he is now playing under former Spurs coach Chris Ramsey at QPR, where he looks likely to have an impact.
There are always players that excel after you sell them. Hindsight is, of course, 20/20. However, with the ability and potential that Luongo has shown since his departure from Spurs, I think most fans might be justified in their disappointment that he's no longer wearing lilywhite. He certainly will not win the Ballon d'Or, but he would've fit in well with this current group of young and rising Tottenham Hotspur players.