Extending the contracts of its young players has been common practice in recent years, but one player in particular has failed to reap the benefits of that practice. Nabil Bentaleb still finds himself earning £8,000 per week despite having spent the entire season demonstrating that he is Tottenham's best midfielder. Now, the Algerian international has spoken to the Telegraph and regarding the negotiations and his situation at the club.
I play every game like it is my last game,’’ said Bentaleb, who has seen Kane and Mason sign new deals this season. "I give everything on the pitch. I’ve been working really hard and it’s normal for me to want to get rewarded. We’ve been negotiating for nearly nine months now, since September, and it’s getting really long and, of course, I’m getting a little bit tired of it."
"But I still work hard. It doesn’t change how hard I work. I will still be the same person. But sometimes it is annoying when you don’t feel treated as you should be. This season was a really good season for me and I’ve had some interest from big clubs, from Champions League clubs. I’m really flattered."
"I feel I’ve grown this season. I’ve shown more maturity and more confidence, even more desire. I fight even more. If right now I was still at the same level that I was a year ago there would be a problem.
The fact that negotiations have drug on since September is odd. I'm starting to wonder, the more we learn about this saga, just what Bentaleb's demands are. I know we all have this impression of Daniel Levy being a skinflint, but when have we known him to be that way when handing out extensions and raises to players that perform well? I can't recall that happening. Perhaps Bentaleb's agents are getting a little bit greedy in the face of interest from big clubs and are trying to force their client into an untenable contract situation so that they can collect a fee on his transfer. I'm not saying that's exactly what's happening here, but the fact that the two parties haven't been able to come to an agreement after nine months of negotiating is incredibly strange.
One other thing to consider is that perhaps this argument isn't down to just wages. It's not that much of a reach to think that Bentaleb's agents may be requesting some clauses that the club aren't comfortable with. Things like bonuses, buy-out clauses, yearly wage rises, etc. Whatever the reason for the extend negotiations is, hopefully everything is resolved soon.
The rest of Bentaleb's interview is also really good. He speaks about how great the fans are and how he "likes" the club. Granted he doesn't love us or really even "like like" us, but he seems happy to be playing with his former U-21 teammates and to be developing under Pochettino.
"I have absolutely no problem with the club itself. I like the club. I really enjoy playing. When I put the Tottenham shirt on I give everything. The people from the club understand this. The fans understand this. I thank the Spurs fans for everything they do, for when they push us, and especially when they are encouraging me on the field or outside the field when I see fans. They are the ones who give me even more strength. For me, they are the 12th man on the pitch."
"Before, I didn’t understand what fans can bring to a player. For me, it was just 'fans’. But now I understand the love they show for the club and I will take it on board and I will start loving the club like they do. I feel part of the club."
All at Spurs are loving the young generation forcing their way through. "It was strange when I first came in I was one of the only youngsters,’’ recalled Bentaleb of his debut under Tim Sherwood at Southampton on Dec 22, 2013. "Then Mason came, then Andros [Townsend] came back from loan and Harry Kane started to play. Because we played together before, and we knew each other really well, there’s a really good bond in the team. It’s nice. It’s not often that clubs get a generation of young players coming through the ranks. "We had the chance with Tottenham to come from the Academy as a four. Now we have to keep on going. It will be very good for us to keep going that way together."
Bentaleb finishes off his interview with a brief discussion of his expectations for next season and confirmation of the trials and tribulations of this season. Like several other players, Bentaleb insists that it took time for Pochettino to impose his style on the team and for the players to understand it. This seems ludicrous to me, but maybe if enough people keep saying it, it will be true.
"Of course Champions League is a possibility next season. This season was our first season altogether with the gaffer – his first year. It took a little bit of time to impose his style of play, and for us to understand it and his way of working, and we didn’t do badly. I would say we did well for the first season. We came fifth. We can only improve. This will be a really important pre-season for us."
To be perfectly frank, I'm getting really tired of writing this story, and the more I hear about it the more and more tedious the story gets and the more apathetic I get. Levy should put a reasonable offer and the table and Nabil should take it and then get his head down and play football. Then, he can go about earning another better extension. This whole saga just needs to go away.