Kyle Walker has been Tottenham Hotspur’s undisputed first choice RB for the past five seasons. In that time he has played for four different managers, has become a regular starter for England, and has turned into perhaps the best right back in the Premier League.
But there have been murmurs of discontent coming out of White Hart Lane the past few weeks concerning Walker and his place in the team. Recent transfer rumors have linked him with Bayern Munich and the two Manchester clubs, especially Manchester City. Today, Jack Pitt-Brooke has dropped something of a bombshell in the Independent, suggesting that Walker has fallen out with Mauricio Pochettino and is ready to quit Tottenham for another club.
According to Pitt-Brooke, the catalyst for all this appears to be a growing dissatisfaction between Pochettino and Walker over Walker’s match fitness and performance on the training pitch. Pochettino is reportedly dissatisfied with Walker apparently not being able to play more than one match in a week. The issue came to a head after Poch named Kieran Trippier as the starter for Spurs’ FA Cup semifinal loss to Chelsea, and yesterday’s North London Derby win over Arsenal. Walker was also reportedly upset after Trippier played in all three Champions League away matches this season.
Here’s Pitt-Brooke on Walker’s current situation:
These events have indicated to Walker that his time is up at Spurs and he should look for his next club. But there is also the matter of money. Tottenham’s rigid wage structure means that the contract Walker signed at the start of the season is for just under £70,000 per week. Walker is very conscious of the fact that he could earn twice as much money elsewhere, especially at City or United. There is no way that Spurs’ incremental wage increases could compete.
Pitt-Brooke alleges that fitness and training are at the core of the dispute between Pochettino and Walker, and that very well could be true, but it’s odd that Poch cites multiple matches in a week as a reason, when one of the hallmark of Pochettino’s game management last season was the regular rotation of the fullbacks. If it wasn’t a problem back then, why is it a problem now?
To be clear, I have no reason to dismiss Pitt-Brooke’s reporting. He’s a solid journalist with good Tottenham sources, so it seems clear that there’s something going on with Walker. I just find the timing a little odd. Instead, I suspect that while there are some issues going on behind the scenes, the driving factor is more Kyle wanting to get paid, which is a fair and reasonable position to take.
There are certainly, if not good at least reasonable rationales for selling Kyle Walker this summer. At age 27, Kyle has almost certainly reached the peak of his playing ability, and that’s referenced by his multiple PFA Team of the Year awards, his England status, and his overall play for Spurs. That said, it’s not unreasonable to assume that within a year or so he may begin to lose a step off his blistering pace and his abilities will begin to decline.
So through this lens, if Spurs want to maximize their profits, the time to sell Walker is now. Walker just signed a new contract this past summer, which means that Spurs have a lot of leverage in any transfer negotiations. Pitt-Brooke suggests that Walker would command a minimum of £35m, and possibly quite a bit more depending on the buying club. That’s not negligible money, and those funds could be rolled back into the club to help fund future transfers.
This is not to minimize the impact Kyle Walker has had on the club. He’s still one of the best fullbacks in the league — he’d have to be, if he’s commanding that kind of money — and as decent as Trippier has been the past few matches, he’s not as good a player as Walker, and doesn’t bring the same set of skills to the team. Losing Kyle would be a serious blow to Spurs, but one that hopefully could be mitigated by purchasing a new fullback/wingback, or a younger player who could compete with Trippier for minutes. There’s also academy graduate Kyle Walker-Peters waiting in the wings.
If this rumor feels abrupt, it’s because it is. Of all the players I guessed might depart Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, Kyle Walker wasn’t close to the top of my list. Michael Caley has suggested both in our writer’s chat and on Twitter that with the club having secured its core of players to long term contracts, departures from Spurs will come down to relationships, not necessarily money. Spurs, after all, don’t need to sell anyone this summer, and Pochettino has repeatedly said that any offseason departures will happen because it’s what’s best for both the player and the club.
If what Pitt-Brooke says is accurate and Kyle Walker has indeed begun angling for a move to another club, the deteriorating relationship between Walker and Pochettino is likely the culprit. It’s early days here, and this doesn’t mean that Walker is for sure leaving for greener pastures, but it seems like there is something going on behind the scenes, and it’ll be one more narrative thread to follow this summer when the transfer window opens up again.