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Is Mauricio Pochettino ready to swoop for Atletico’s Nicolas Gaitan?

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The rumor mill is swirling, saying that Spurs have enquired about either a purchase or loan for Gaitan, despite him having joined Atletico only this past summer.

Sevilla FC v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Tottenham Hotspur are linked with a move for Nicolas Gaitan. The Evening Standard suggest that Spurs have put in an enquiry for Atletico Madrid’s Argentinian winger, while the Mirror say (in an article that apparently no longer exists) that they’re more interested in obtaining him on a half-season loan.

Gaitan was frequently linked with Tottenham back when AVB still sexily stalked the White Hart Lane touchline, and it’s not exactly a surprise to see him once again rumored for a move to London. An aging Argentinian player being linked with Tottenham Hotspur, who just so happens to have an Argentinian manager? Shocking, I know. And despite this appearing to originate from the Standard, a paper that’s generally solid on Tottenham rumors, there are some problems with this rumor.

Gaitan arrived at Atletico this summer, but hasn’t found minutes very easy to come by under Diego Simeone. So far this season he’s only played 753 minutes with a mere six starts, and only half of those minutes were in La Liga. He’s scored two goals this season from (mostly) a right midfield position, both of which came in a 28 minute cameo during a 7-1 thumping of Grenada, and tallied one assist. His failure to make an immediate impact at the Vicente Calderon might be driving the rumors of his fast departure.

However, you don’t have to look too far back to see that Gaitan has been an assist machine for his old club Benfica the past few seasons. Operating mostly on the left wing, Nico notched 20, 16, and 12 assists in the past three seasons. He operates as a deeper wide midfielder who can link the defense to the offense, but not being an Atletico expert I don’t know how well he operates in the press, and he would immediately be in competition with Erik Lamela, Moussa Sissoko, and/or Son Heung-Min for minutes in the forward attacking band.

If you wanted to take the cynical view, you could consider this rumor a reaction to the bad injury news on Lamela and an attempt to mitigate his absence. Framed that way, a short term loan would make slightly more sense, but not if you think about Pochettino’s tactical system. Most of his players take at least a season to adjust to his system. While Gaitan’s experience at Atletico would probably mean he’d find the transition a little easier than most, it’s very un-Pochettino to take a new player in January, especially on loan, unless he’s sure he could be a big-time contributor right away.

Now 28, Gaitan’s no longer a spring chicken. And while that’s not exactly a disqualifying factor anymore (see: Sissoko), it’s a little curious that Spurs might be interested in him, considering he’s not exactly a key contributor at Atletico right now. Not to mention Atletico bought Gaitan for £22m just this summer, and would probably want to at least break even on the deal if they were going to cut bait already.

Plus, and probably most importantly, Simeone has said that he’s not interested in getting rid of him.

This is a long-winded way of saying that this rumor is almost certainly #batcountry. Gaitan might make a certain kind of sense on paper, but this is probably the kind of rumor designed to sell papers. If this happens, I’d be more than surprised.