It’s not a matter of if Tottenham Hotspur will someday be affected by the big money offers coming from the Chinese Super League, it’s more a matter of when. China has been trying to make a splash in world football in recent years, offering huge transfer fees and even bigger salaries to world footballers in an attempt to raise the profile of the Super League. Now, according to one Belgian newspaper, Spurs’ Mousa Dembele has an offer on the table for his services.
According to a report from Het Nieuwsblad, Chinese clubs are going after several Belgian star footballers at European clubs. The report claims that Dembele, Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, and Marouane Fellaini all have lucrative offers on the table from China. This follows the recent transfer of fellow Belgian Axel Witsel, who signed with Tianjin Quanjian for a reported salary of over £288k/week.
It’s easy to dismiss offers from China for stars like Harry Kane or Dele Alli who are both in the prime of their careers, are playing regular football, and are superstars in their own right. However, the transfer of Oscar to Shanghai SIPG shows that even younger players can have their heads turned by the prospects of making millions of pounds for a couple of years in China.
It’s even more interesting for players who are heading towards the twilight of their careers. Dembele is hugely important to the way Spurs play and their overall tactics, but he’s 29 years old, and at the point where Tottenham should start to expect a decline in his performance.
We don’t know how accurate this report is, but there’s apparently enough smoke in the air that players are at least thinking about it. Het Nieuwsblad even has a quote from Dembele, who indicates that a big-money offer to play in China isn’t something that even he can dismiss out of hand.
“Het is sowieso een heel moeilijke keuze”, zegt Mousa Dembélé. “Voor jonge spelers die nog moeten groeien, is het niet zo verstandig naar ginder te gaan. Voor oudere spelers ligt het misschien anders. Maar eerlijk gezegd heb ik geen flauw idee over het niveau van voetbal. Het is moeilijk te zeggen.”
"It is a very difficult choice," said Mousa Dembélé. "For young players who can still grow, it is not wise to go. For older players, it’s different. But honestly I have no idea about the level of football. It is hard to say. "
So, I seriously doubt that this is anything that we’re going to have to worry about in the January transfer window. With Spurs competing in multiple competitions and in the middle of what looks like a serious chase for top four in the Premier League, it would be shocking to see Spurs cash in on a player at this stage of the season. He’s still a key player for Spurs and a lock-down starter when he’s healthy. Moose has given every indication that he’s happy at Tottenham, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot behind the rumor in any case.
However, this may be something that we’ll have to keep an eye on this summer. Dembele is a player who is regularly sidelined with injuries, and there’s a case to be made that Spurs could have his replacement in the pipeline in Harry Winks. Cashing in on a 30-year old player, even if he hasn’t yet started to decline in performance, might be financially prudent for both Dembele and Tottenham Hotspur, assuming the offer’s still on the table.
That said, I think it’s more likely that we’ll get at least one more season with Moose. Winksy is still pretty young and raw, and Poch may want another season of tutelage before he tosses him permanently into the lineup. Assuming the bubble hasn’t burst by then, there probably will still be plenty of options for Moose overseas in 2018.
I’m still side-eying China, though.