Maybe we need to re-evaluate our take on Nabil Bentaleb. Since his loan to Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga this summer, news stories from Germany and England have almost gone out of their way to drive a wedge between Tottenham fans and Bentaleb.
Reports in Bild and elsewhere implied he had a bad attitude, or that he had fallen out of favor with Mauricio Pochettino, or that he left the club in a cloud of acrimony and bad feelings. These stories came out as Schalke started the season 0-5 and with Nabil having a few awful games at the start of his German career. Bentaleb himself seemed to knock on Spurs fans, implying that fans at White Hart Lane don’t support the club when they lose.
Now, Bentaleb has settled into life in Schalke’s forward attacking midfield band and is the team’s leading scorer with five goals. It’s enough that Schalke have reportedly already agreed to buy him next summer for £16.5m.
Nabil also seems to have softened his stance and is taking a more conciliatory view on his time at North London and his opinion on Tottenham fans.
“In the last few weeks, I see a lot of Tottenham fans getting on to me for some words that I say. [Tottenham is] a club that gave a lot to me.
“I have so much respect for the Tottenham supporters, and I have so much respect for the club that gave me the chance when I came for the first time to England.”
Since the pieces on Bentaleb in Bild came out last month, which were highly critical of him and which we covered, Bentaleb has gotten a fair amount of stick from Spurs fans who didn’t like what they read. I’m not sure if this is Bentaleb trying to soften his stance a little after speaking out of frustration, or if his comments, as he says, were misinterpreted.
Bentaleb also tried to correct the narrative that he left Tottenham on bad terms. Instead, he claims that he lost his place due to injury, and by the time he got back it was too late for him to make any sort of an impact.
“I was injured quite a long time and when I came back, the team was only winning. I was not part of the plan and I thought at that time – and still now – at my age, I need to play to improve.
“I made it clear to the coaches and the coaches said: ‘No problem. We can sort this situation out.’ I left on good terms with the chairman and the coach.”
Bentaleb’s comments and the ones brought forth by Bild and other papers are diametrically opposed viewpoints on what happened. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle: he probably was pretty frustrated with his playing opportunities by the end of his tenure at Tottenham and maybe let some of those frustrations slip out at the wrong time here and there.
But if what he says about asking for a move is true, that might be the reason why he was training with the U21s before his loan. We know that Poche doesn’t want players who are not in his plans training with the first team – we saw that with Emmanuel Adebayor as well. However, what if Bentaleb’s “banishment” wasn’t punishment, but practicality?
I harbor no ill will to Bentaleb and hope he has a productive career in Germany. Likewise, I hope he’s being honest when he talks about his time at Tottenham Hotspur. It looks like he’s probably a talented player that just never could get his opportunity to shine at Spurs.