Historically speaking, Tottenham Hotspur January transfer windows are pretty boring. Spurs usually spend their winters looking to make moves to shore up depth or add to their youth academy. There have been a couple of exceptions, such as Dele Alli two seasons ago for £5m, but even he was loaned back to MK Dons before joining Spurs full time in 2015. The names that have come out during this time are less than remarkable, such as current youth player Shiloh Tracey, former Spurs midfielder Lewis Holtby, and a long-time Premier League player in the form of Steven Pienaar. That doesn’t stop reporters from linking Spurs to half of Europe in January because they’re bored, and this rumor may very well be in that realm.
The Guardian, specifically Ed Aarons, report that Spurs are renewing their interest in Crystal Palace attacker Wilfried Zaha, summed up here in a simple tweet:
We’ve been down this road before, and all that talk toward the end of the summer proved that there was genuine interest, but the clubs were nowhere near each other’s valuations. The article in question mainly talks about Zaha’s call up to the African Cup of Nations for Cote d’Ivoire but Aarons makes sure to remind us that Spurs still want to take the 24-year-old away from Selhurst Park.
His decision to go to Gabon could potentially frustrate Tottenham Hotspur’s anticipated pursuit of the player next month. Spurs had derisory bids for Zaha dismissed in the summer, the first amounted to little more than £12m, and were expected to return to Palace with an improved offer in the region of £25m in January, though the fact the player will be absent for almost the entire month may wreck the possibility of a move. Regardless, Palace’s hierarchy are intent upon resisting offers for a player who has been a rare bright spark over a difficult Premier League campaign to date.
Aarons isn’t wrong here, so that alone removes the standard bat country element from this. The Guardian generally are good enough where I believe most of what they write, but even they have a dud here and there.
The problem with this rumor is threefold: AFCON, Moussa Sissoko, and Crystal Palace.
Simply put, the African Cup of Nations runs from mid-January until February 5. Cote d’Ivoire is expected to at least make the knockout stages with a relatively weak group. Zaha isn’t going to want to deal with a possible transfer during a major international tournament, so this move would have to happen in the first week of January before he reports for international duty. If we’re taking Spurs’ history into account here, Levy generally doesn’t do business in winter until the last week or so. He could always buck tradition, but almost every single move in the last ten years was finalized after January 15.
Then there’s the second issue: Sissoko, and it isn’t so much whether we believe he’s been good or not, it’s the fact that he’s on the squad. Agreeing to the £30m transfer on deadline day leads everyone to believe that Spurs are not about to make another move that pushes the club record fee, but there’s also this belief that the rumored Barkley-for-Sissoko swap is an actual thing (Spoiler: It isn’t.) and that pulling off that swap would free up a spot for Zaha as Barkley plays more centrally. Logically, that at least makes sense, but that brings us to the third problem: Crystal Palace.
Palace just sacked Alan Pardew and have brought in Sam Allardyce to try and stave off relegation. Palace are in rough shape. They have won just six Premier League matches in the entire year of 2016, have earned five points in their last ten matches, and are sitting on 16 points. That’s good enough to be two clear of the drop zone. Palace will no doubt be involved in the relegation discussion unless Allardyce can right the ship sooner rather than later. Selling Zaha is not going to be top priority as that would go against just about every logical move a club would want to make unless they have a target in mind immediately to replace him.
So, let’s summarize this: This isn’t a completely terrible rumor. Aarons generally has good sources and I believe that Spurs may at least call up Palace and ask if a deal can be arranged. However, I believe any inquiry made is simply looking toward the summer, especially if Palace go down. Could this actually happen in January? Sure, but I wouldn’t go betting my life savings on it. Palace need Zaha more than Spurs need Zaha, and that alone tells me that Palace are going to say “Thanks, but no thanks.”